When Is It Too Late to Fire Your Attorney?

A person may fire an attorney for many reasons. It may be that the attorney did not communicate with the client. Perhaps, the client disagreed with the strategy. It is possible for a client to believe that a lawyer is unprepared or lacks professionalism. The majority of the time, a client is free to fire the attorney at their whim, but this isn’t always the case.

It may be necessary to get the court’s permission to change your attorney if you are involved in a criminal case or if a trial is pending.

What to Consider Before Firing Your Attorney

It’s important to decide whether you are upset over something that won’t be changed, even if you hire another attorney before terminating your relationship. When you lose a crucial ruling, you should consider whether another attorney can overturn the decision. You should also consider negative results of hiring another attorney.

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Main Reasons When to Fire Your Lawyer

After signing a contract with a lawyer, if things don’t work out, what are valid reasons to fire your lawyer? You may have a question when is it too late to fire a lawyer? No deadline exists.

Here are a few cases when you may want to break up with your lawyer:

Your lawyer doesn’t return calls

Some law firm clients complain about a lack of communication. Law firms are indeed very busy. In addition to you, they have many other clients. Before taking your case, a lawyer needs to know if the firm has the resources to handle it. A delay in returning calls or emails isn’t acceptable.

Poor work conduct

Their time is valuable, but so is yours. Meeting with your lawyer may require you to take time off work, secure childcare, or give up other obligations to hold the meeting.

You shouldn’t have to waste time, money, or documents with an unprepared lawyer. The worst-case scenario may be if your lawyer shows up unprepared to court because this can have a negative effect on your case.

Your lawyer should have your file organized and ready when you ask questions. Any instruction or checks you have written related to the case, any evidence you have submitted or obtained as a result of an investigation, any pleadings from the other parties (or their own), and anything else you have related to the case should be available. Regardless of whether or not they store documents digitally or physically, they need to know where and how to find each document.

Your lawyer has no expertise in handling your case

How do you handle it if they just don’t grasp it?

Becoming a lawyer requires a lot of time, effort, and study. This does not mean that every lawyer knows every nuance of the law and its legal action. In smaller cases, you might be assigned to a newer attorney in the firm. Possibly, the person doesn’t understand the specific area of law that’s relevant.

The other possibility is that additional law areas may be involved that are not within your lawyer’s expertise as the case progresses. An initial workplace accident claim may turn into a product liability claim if some part of the workplace equipment was manufactured incorrectly, and that might not be obvious when the lawyer takes your case.

A lawyer has the responsibility either to conduct the necessary research or seek advice from another lawyer familiar with the area of law in question.

You disagree with your lawyer’s advice

The reason you retain a lawyer is to get advice. The lawyer should still consider your wishes. 

After an accident, your lawyer may be pressuring you to accept a settlement that you think is too low to cover your expenses. Your lawyer may be trying to convince you to settle when you need to take a case to a judge and jury.

Alternatively, you might want a quick settlement to avoid the courtroom, but your lawyer discourages that approach.

There could be valid reasons why your lawyer thinks one approach is better than another, but ultimately it is up to you to make a decision. It is your life, after all.

Your lawyer must disclose any settlement offer. The lawyer should tell you whether the other party makes an offer, even if he or she knows it’s too low.

Making a list of pros and cons and discussing it with your lawyer is reasonable when you need to make a big decision about the legal issues of your case. A lawyer should also explain to you in detail why you should listen to their advice, and the reason, like just because they want to close your case is not adequate.

Unreasonable billing practices

A lawyer will set forth his or her fees in a contract before you hire them. The vast majority of personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means their compensation depends on the damages you receive. Additionally, they will charge you for additional expenses incurred during the case.

If you receive a bill, the expenses should be reasonable, even if you do not know upfront how much those fees will be.

Unethical behavior or misconduct

An ethical lawyer is one who acts with integrity. The following actions may have violated your lawyer’s code of ethics:

  • Conflict of interests;
  • Mismanagement of funds;
  • A breach of confidentiality (or attorney-client privilege);
  • Asking you to do something that may be illegal or makes you uncomfortable; and
  • You are not informed of settlement offers.

Legal malpractice

If your lawyer damages your chances of winning, they may be negligent. Erroneously interpreting the law or failing to file a lawsuit on time are also examples of malpractice.

Lack of dedication or compassion

A lawyer should do everything in their power to advocate for or represent their client. A lawyer shouldn’t berate or insult you, nor should he or she make you accept a settlement or handle your case in a particular way.

Do you need legal assistance?Find the right lawyer in your area.

How to Fire Your Lawyer

Before you fire a lawyer, you need to ensure that you know what to do next. So here are some steps you can take to make everything go smoothly:

Read the fine print on your contract

Find out if there are any termination clauses. Follow the terms of the contract if the termination clause stipulates notice, timing, or anything else. When is it too late to change attorneys? There is no timeline, and should not have any ramifications.

Find a new lawyer

If your current attorney isn’t doing the job, you don’t want to be in the middle of a legal proceeding without a lawyer. Get a new lawyer before firing your current one.

Write a termination letter

Modifications and terminations of a contract must be in writing. To ensure delivery, send the letter by certified mail to the lawyer’s office. You must request that your new lawyer receive the file (which includes all documents, evidence, pleadings, and other materials). 

Notify the court

Upon retaining new counsel, you/your new attorney must notify the court that your case has already been filed. Your new attorney should file a “motion for substitution of counsel,” and your existing attorney will withdraw.

Payment of Remaining Attorney’s Fees and Expenses

To avoid the lawyer holding on to your case files until payment is received, pay off your balance immediately so the lawyer will relinquish your file. 

Final Remarks

Before hiring a professional attorney with a good reputation, ask questions to ensure you are hiring the right lawyer. A legitimate consultation is an excellent way to learn about a specific attorney and whether they can handle a particular case.

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 Sofi for all the details via email at s.ostymchuk@lawrina.com.

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