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What Do When My Lawyer Is Not Fighting For Me?

If you find yourself represented by a bad lawyer and feel that their legal services are not what you expected, there might be something you can do. 

Your Expectations of Your Lawyer Fighting for You

It’s important to know what to expect of your lawyer when he or she is fighting for your legal rights. When you hire a lawyer, you should use the initial consultation and discussion to go over what you can expect in terms of communication, billing, and progress in your case. A good law firm will explain to you what types of updates they provide, and how often.

For example, a law firm might say that they will keep you updated by reaching out whenever they have updated information or need documents from you. However, you should expect to hear very little for the next three months simply because it takes that long for your documents to be reviewed on the other end.

In this example, it’s reasonable to expect that your lawyer is doing everything he or she can to fight for you, but it’s just as reasonable to expect that you might not hear anything from them during those three months. In that time, you should have clear evidence that they are working for you, communicating for you, and developing the best legal strategy on your behalf.

What to Do If Your Lawyer Isn’t Doing His Job

If the lawyer has laid out expectations with you and you know what to expect in terms of price and services, then he or she really isn’t doing the job, a problem develops. In some cases, you might see a lawyer with a conflict of interest or a lawyer who is not strategic but aggressive, especially with a divorce case, custody case, or criminal case. If your lawyer is not doing his job, you can fire him and hire someone else.

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Unfortunately, if a lawyer isn’t fighting for you and makes mistakes or if he’s just been incompetent, it can cost you severely. If you have a lawyer who doesn’t put his or her best effort into a criminal case, if you are not able to recognize the signs that you may need to replace the attorney early in the case, it could mean that you lose your case and face criminal charges. That’s why it’s important to know what problems are common with lawyers who don’t fight for their clients’ rights. 

Problems When Your Lawyer Is Not Fighting for You

No matter what type of case it is, there are many problems that a client can encounter, and these problems can become amplified when a lawyer is simply not fighting for the client. 

When Your Lawyer Does Not, or Will Not, Communicate Effectively

When you have issues like “my lawyer is not fighting for me,” especially where communication is concerned, you always have the right to get a second opinion about whether the poor communication is reasonable. After that determination, you can hire another lawyer. In some situations, you might be in the middle of a trial, which means that your trial attorney is working long hours preparing for the upcoming court date. It might make sense that, during these times, the lawyer doesn’t respond to emails as often or as quickly or return phone calls. However, good lawyers will have a team that should pick up the slack and communicate issues or questions with you or a client portal where you can view updates or check responses. If your attorney isn’t doing any of that and is ignoring you completely, it might be time to get a new attorney. 

What If Your Lawyer Is Incompetent?

If you have complaints like “my lawyer isn’t fighting for me” because he or she really doesn’t seem interested in doing a good job, remember that a qualified law firm should focus on the client’s best interests. If your attorney does anything that causes you to doubt his or her competency, you can always talk to other attorneys to get a second opinion and, if necessary, hire a new attorney.

What If Your Lawyer Is Unethical?

If your complaint is “my lawyer is not on my side,” it might be because the lawyer is doing something unethical. If an attorney is being unethical, you can hire another in his or her place. Get another opinion as to the ethical nature of the questionable actions before doing so. If it’s something for which you have evidence, you might consider filing a complaint with the bar association against that attorney and potentially suing that attorney based on the consequences of the unethical behavior.

What If Your Lawyer Charges Fees You Find Unfair?

Should you have issues like “my attorney is not doing his job,” it might be because your attorney charges fees that you find unfair. Depending on the type of attorney with whom you are working, you might be charged a percentage of your final settlement or an hourly fee based on the work provided. A good attorney should provide a projection of what those costs are for similar situations. This helps the client to prepare for what the cost will be. If you are paying on an hourly basis, you might get an invoice at the end of each month. Review that invoice for any charges that you think are unfair, and start by asking the attorney why you were charged. You can even ask for a second opinion from another attorney or a legal service to make sure that the fees are the right price range for where you live and the service you are getting. If you don’t like the rates, you have the right to get a new attorney. However, you must pay anything that you are already contractually obligated to pay.

What to Do When Your Attorney Ignores You

If your attorney is ignoring you, this can be a serious problem. Communication is one of the most critical elements in an attorney-client relationship. As clients don’t necessarily understand the legal system, they typically have a lot of questions throughout the course of a case. It’s the responsibility of the attorney to answer those questions and to do so in a reasonable amount of time. You should feel completely safe and secure with your attorney and trust that they are communicating with you effectively.

Can You Fire a Lawyer That Is Not Fighting For You?

Now you wonder what to do if your lawyer is not helping you. If your lawyer is not fighting for you, then you have the right to fire him or her. 

If, for example, you have a personal injury lawyer who has proven not to be a good lawyer, you can fire that lawyer and find a new one. The procedure is very simple. You have to notify your lawyer and, depending on where your case is in its legal proceedings, the judge. If you fire a lawyer or a law firm because of something like professional negligence, you need to be aware of a few potential consequences:

  1. You have the legal right to send a simple letter to your lawyer stating that he or she is dismissed, or fired, giving the reason (e.g., the attorney ignores you or fails to file pleadings on time). However, if you signed a contract with the attorney, you will be legally required to pay any money you already owe and any money that you agreed to pay in the contract.
  2. If you are currently going through something like a custody case, you will still need lawyers to help you with your case. If you don’t already have another lawyer to replace the one you don’t want anymore, you might have a legal vacuum during which time certain paperwork has to be filed or certain steps have to be taken. It will be up to you to meet these deadlines on your own during that time.
  3. If you claim, “My lawyer is working against me,” you might extend the time frame for your case when you hire a replacement. The new lawyer might need extra time to examine your case and develop a better defense. They will charge for this time, so the overall attorney fees might be more in the long term.

Can You Sue Your Lawyer for Not Doing His Job?

In some cases, yes, you can sue your lawyer if he or she is guilty of legal malpractice. This refers to a type of negligence where a lawyer actually does harm to the client, in the same way medical malpractice applies when a doctor does harm to a patient. For example, if your lawyer is not fighting for your best interest in something like divorce proceedings, you can potentially sue that lawyer. 

Can You Sue Your Lawyer for Not Doing His Job?

Realistically, you can only sue lawyers for not doing their job if they have violated professional conduct. A lawyer being bad at the job isn’t grounds for a lawsuit. However, if the lawyer fails to adhere to a legal code of ethics and behaves in a way that directly contravenes the interest of a client, that client can reach out to another attorney and consider filing a lawsuit against the negligent attorney. These are difficult cases to win, so make sure that you have evidence to support the claim of professional negligence.

Conclusion

The client attorney relationship is one that most people take quite seriously. However, in spite of best intentions, there might be times when a lawyer doesn’t do his or her job, violates professional codes of ethics, or doesn’t respond to his or her clients in a timely manner. In these situations, a client may, understandably, not want to use that attorney’s services any longer. When your lawyer is not fighting for you, you have every right to fire that attorney and get a replacement, and you may have the right to sue in the event that the attorney violated professional codes of ethics.

Article by Sofi Ostymchuk

Sofi Ostymchuk is a Content Lead and Legal Writer at Lawrina. Sofi manages the content on the blog, communicates with contributors, looks for interesting topics, and creates articles in cooperation with lawyers and law experts. If you would like to be a blogger for Lawrina, you can contact S0fi for all the details via email at s.ostymchuk@lawrina.com.

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