How to Fire Your Lawyer

Alex BarthetContracts, Litigation & Arbitration

How to Fire Your Lawyer

  • First, talk to your lawyer; he may be able to resolve the issues you are having
  • Only fire your attorney if you can’t make the relationship work any longer, or you are convinced that you are not obtaining effective representation in your case
  • Ensure that the new attorney is board certified and knowledgeable in the right areas of the law
  • Have your new lawyer and your old lawyer sign a substitution document
  • Resolve every pending issue with your old lawyer including payment to ensure a smooth transition

Before you make a decision to fire your construction lawyer, make sure you have explored other options and that you are really ready to switch. Is the issue you are having with the lawyer something you can rectify? When is the last time you talked to the lawyer? Have you voiced your dissatisfaction or concerns with your lawyer? You should talk to your lawyer before deciding to switch because you may be able to resolve the issues you are having pretty easily. After all, and you have a lot invested with this lawyer already. So, unless you are really unhappy or you don’t see any way to make it better, you should try to revive your relationship. Sometimes one phone call is all it takes to resolve a billing dispute or other issue. Whatever it is, try working it out. But if you have decided that you have had enough and can’t make it work any longer, or you are convinced that you are not properly represented in your legal matters or a piece of litigation or arbitration, you may indeed need a new lawyer.

How do you make the switch? Look for a lawyer that is able to help you with the issues you have. Ensure the lawyer is board certified and that he has sufficient experience, ideally being an established expert in the field – maybe having spoken or written articles on the issues you have with your case. Once you are ready to switch, line up the new lawyer. You may probably have to sign an engagement agreement, pay a retainer or agree to the rates. Make sure you meet with the lawyer that is actually going to be handling your file. Advise your new lawyer that you have an existing lawyer you need to switch from. Your new lawyer should be the one to handle everything for you.

When clients come to us, and they ask us to represent them on a case that is already pending, we pick up the phone once we are formally engaged, we talk to the prior lawyer, we obtain the file, and we make an appearance in the case. The court requires what is called a substitution in the case where the prior lawyer and the new lawyer sign a document that says from this point forward the new lawyer is going to handle the case. All of that paperwork is handled by the new lawyer.

The two issues that may become a problem when you switch is obtaining your files back and paying any outstanding bills that may exist. A lawyer has a right to assert what is called a charging and retaining lien. If you owe your lawyer any money, he/she can place a lien on your file, meaning he/she can retain the documents or other property until payment is made. The lawyer can also make a claim for any recovery that may come out of the file. So, be aware that these liens may exist.

If you have any ability to resolve the issues to make that transition smooth, our advice is that you do that to make a clean break.