You may realize after you have hired a lawyer that they are not the right attorney for you. Some clients may learn that they are better served by hiring a new lawyer. Before you can obtain a new attorney, you need to terminate your relationship with your old attorney.
You may be afraid to fire your attorney in the middle of a personal injury lawsuit. However, it is a step that you must take at times. Here are some things to consider when you need to end your relationship with legal counsel.
Reasons Why You May Need a New Attorney
For whatever reason, your personal injury attorney may not be working out for you. One of the main reasons why people want a new lawyer is because their previous attorney would not return phone calls.
Communication is key for a lawyer, and they need to be responsive to you and your needs. Although a lawyer may occasionally have court proceedings, they should get back to you within a reasonable amount of time.
If a lawyer does not return calls, it could cause unnecessary delays in your case. This could mean that it is in your best interest to get a new attorney.
You Could Have an Issue with Your Attorney’s Personality
Not every attorney and client are the perfect match for each other. Your attorney is a constant part of your life while your personal injury case is pending. They are the ones who will explain every key legal development to you and help you make the key decisions in your case.
Lawyers have different communication styles. No one style works best for everyone, but your relationship is a matter of whether your attorney’s style works for you. Attorneys must recognize that they are dealing with clients at a difficult point in their life, and they should tailor their communications accordingly.
Your lawyer should have some degree of sensitivity and compassion, even as they fight hard for you against those who try to deny your legal rights.
You and Your Legal Counsel May Not Be on the Same Page
You also need to maintain a working professional relationship with the attorney. You may learn once your case begins that you do not mesh well with your lawyer’s style. You might have philosophical disagreements, or you may not like how your current attorney communicates.
Give Careful Consideration Before You Fire Your Attorney
An attorney-client relationship may have ups and downs. You should not make the decision to replace your lawyer on the spur of the moment. Instead, it should be a conscious decision that you have thought about.
Do not act quickly or in haste because you could lose a good attorney by acting emotionally. Once you fire an attorney, there is nothing that says that they have to work with you again in you choose to rehire them.
Distinguish Bad News from Bad Lawyering
You may not like what you hear from your attorney, but they have no control over the news that they give you (although they can control how they deliver the news).
There are some times that, despite an attorney’s best efforts, you may get bad news in your case before you reach the final verdict. For example, a judge could limit the scope of your case or deny you access to a key document in discovery. The insurance company could make bad settlement offers that they refuse to raise.
Some developments in your case may not be your attorney’s fault. While they fight for your legal rights, they are not in control over everything.
Get a Second Opinion Before You Officially Fire Your Attorney
You should not act emotionally when firing your attorney. This should be a decision that is in your best interest that is made after you have carefully thought through the situation. You should speak with someone you trust to go over the pros and cons of the situation.
There are times when you must change attorneys, but it must be a deliberate choice that you make, fully considering the impacts that a new attorney could have on your case.
The second opinion should not come from the new counsel themselves. A new lawyer would wait until you fired your old lawyer to begin working with you. Other attorneys cannot take you on as a client until you finish the process of firing your attorney.
Attorney-client privilege only applies to one lawyer at a time. If you speak about your case to anyone else who is not your current attorney, you could be deemed to have waived that privilege. This could have catastrophic impacts on your case.
Drafting a Termination Letter to Your Attorney
Firing your attorney requires actual notice to them that you no longer wish for them to represent you in your case. Until you give them that notice, they remain your lawyer.
In order to fire your lawyer, you should write a termination letter, so there is no doubt about what you have done. This should be a formal letter that states that you no longer wish for them to represent you.
This letter should be sent return receipt requested to ensure that you know that the attorney received it. You do not need to get into details in the termination letter. All you need to state is that you are terminating their legal representation of you.
You can find a sample termination letter online that will give you the basics on how to end your legal relationship with your attorney.
Follow Up if You Verbally Fire an Attorney
Some clients may verbally fire their lawyer in the heat of the moment. If that is the case, they should always follow up with a letter. They may reconsider their decision, but a letter makes everything more formal.
It is always better to have things in writing, especially when there is any question of when you fired an attorney for purposes of fee collection.
Some Aspects of the Attorney-Client Relationship Survive Termination
Your former attorney has a legal obligation to maintain attorney-client privilege over information that they learned from you during the course of the legal relationship. Just because they are no longer your attorney does not mean that they can reveal information that you told them in confidence.
An attorney can be sanctioned for violating attorney-client privilege to former clients the same as they would for current ones.
They can certainly not do any legal work that poses a conflict with their previous representation of you. Rule 1.9 of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct state that:
“A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.”
There would be no good reason why you would allow a former attorney to work against you in the future.
Legal Fees When You Switch Attorneys
When you hired your attorney in the first place, you signed a retainer agreement with them that dictated how fees are to be handled. The retainer agreement is a legally binding contract that applies, even when you switch lawyers.
Your attorney may have already advanced fees, such as court costs and payments for court reporters and expert witnesses. They are legally entitled to be paid these fees if you owe them money based on your legal agreement with them.
If the attorney has already expended time and effort on the case, they may be entitled to compensation for the work that they have done on your case.
If your legal case was on a contingency basis. a personal injury attorney may be able to share in your financial recovery if you receive it, even if they do not receive the full amount that they were originally supposed to receive under your agreement with them.
Before you fire an attorney, you should consider whether there may be money that you need to pay out of your pocket. It could impact your financial situation.
Return of Your Records in Pending Matters
Your old attorney may have case files that you need for your ongoing personal injury matter. However, the attorney may not be obligated to turn over the case file until they have received payment for what they are owed.
In the end, the legal records in your case belong to you. Assuming that you are current in all of your financial obligations, there is a requirement for the attorney to return the records to you. It is vital that you receive these records, because you may be facing deadlines in your case that you need to meet.
Consider Contacting the Bar Association If There Was Misconduct
An attorney must follow the rules of professional conduct in the jurisdiction in which they are licensed to practice law. They can be disciplined for misconduct, which can include a suspension of their right to practice law.
The state bar associated is a self-regulating entity that enforces the rules for lawyers. If your lawyer has engaged in misconduct, you can write a letter to the state law to report it. However, the state bar will only get involved if there has been an actual violation of their rules (failure to communicate with a client or to diligently represent them in a case could be a violation of these rules).
If you simply have a personality conflict with an attorney, it would not be a reason to involve the state bar.
However, you should be careful about threatening to report your lawyer to the state bar because it could cause them to make things more difficult for your case (especially when they have your case file).
Closely Vet Your New Attorney Before You Hire Them
You should ask more than a few questions before you hire a new attorney. You do not want to be in the position of having to switch attorneys several times in your case. Taking time to fire an attorney can cause delays, and it could even weaken your legal case.
If you have turmoil in your legal representation, the insurance company may see that as a weakness, and use it as an excuse to play hardball.
You should be more certain that your new attorney does not have the same qualities that you did not like about your previous attorney. Then, you could end up in the same exact situation again with less ability to change attorneys yet again in the middle of the case.
Call Our Office for a Free Consultation
If you need to switch lawyers, we ask that you consider Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers to handle your personal injury case. Once you speak with us, we will explain your legal options with where your case stands now.
Our attorneys will still work for you on a contingency basis, meaning that we are not paid unless you win your case.
We schedule free consultations either online or over the phone. You can reach us at (888) 424-5757.
We provide responsive and dedicated service to our clients as we fight for their legal rights. We have a long track record of positive reviews and getting results for our clients.