Whether you’re caught in a legal battle and fighting for your rights after a car accident, or for your job in an employment issue, a good relationship with your lawyer is a must.
If you find that you don’t feel as though you can trust your lawyer, worry that he or she may not have your best interests in mind, or you struggle to communicate with them, you’ll be making an already stressful situation even worse.
You may also be compromising the odds of a verdict in your favor.
When contracts are involved, or a case is already underway, it can be easy to feel as though you’re stuck and have no alternatives available to you.
Keep reading to learn what you need to know about breaking up with your personal injury lawyer before, or during a case, how to deal with voiding contracts, and finding a new attorney in the middle of a legal battle.
Odds are, the process is more viable than you may have thought initially.
Questions to Ask Yourself If You’re Not Happy with Your Personal Injury Lawyer
Before you start weighing your options as far as what it takes to fire your attorney, it’s important to make sure that you’re ready to cut ties for the right reasons.
First, you need to ask yourself whether you’re upset with your situation, rather than your lawyer.
When your case isn’t going the way that you hoped, it’s normal to feel frustrated. But oftentimes, it isn’t your attorney’s fault. The last thing you want to do is let go of a good lawyer who you’ve already built a solid rapport with just because things aren’t trending in your favor.
If your case is already occurring, it’s even more important to assess your reasons for wanting to change out your legal team. Making the change amid a trial already underway does make things increasingly more complicated, so it’s important to keep that in mind.
Defendants who have already changed lawyers at least once in the past during a case may also seem suspicious if they make another change.
Additionally, changing your personal injury lawyer during an active legal case can be expensive and difficult, and may delay your case.
That said, if you truly feel that your lawyer is hurting your case, you should go forward with replacing your attorney, regardless of the challenge.
Your legal outcome deserves precedence.
What Can I Do if My Attorney Is Not Doing His or Her Job?
If you have decided that your attorney is not doing their job, it is time to begin the process of terminating your relationship with him or her and seeking new representation.
The first thing that you need to do is to review your contract with your current lawyer. It is likely that your contract includes instructions for what you need to do if you choose to end your relationship with that attorney before your case is finished.
You will need to follow any outlined steps very closely and read the fine print.
Before you begin to take the necessary steps to terminate your current contract with your lawyer, it is a good idea to go forward with finding new representation.
There are several reasons for taking this step right away.
First, it gives you a chance to start looking for the right lawyer for your case. Failing to do so before you end your contract with your current attorney will leave you with a lapse in representation, leaving you scrambling to find the right new lawyer, which can lead to rushing your decision and choosing the wrong lawyer for your case again.
Once you handle the process once, you’re not going to want to do it again. You need to be certain you’re making the right choice and have performed due diligence.
Finding a new attorney right away will also allow you to go over your current contract and discuss your options for terminating it with their assistance so that you don’t need to do it alone.
Retainer contracts with attorneys can be complicated and difficult to decipher, especially if you have no legal background. Having another lawyer look over your contract and discuss the steps that you need to be taking can help you ensure you do not make any mistakes that could come back to hurt you later.
Can I Fire My Personal Injury Lawyer and Represent Myself?
When you have had a bad relationship with a lawyer, it can be tempting to avoid working with another one. You might find that after one subpar experience, you’re hesitant to risk it again.
But if you are in the middle of a legal case, and aren’t a legal expert, this is probably not a wise route to choose.
Not only will you want a lawyer’s help terminating your old contract, but you will also need help reviewing your case and the work your previous attorney already did.
On your own, you would have to deal with the legal side of getting rid of your attorney in the middle of your case. In a legal battle, the other side may also take advantage of your lack of legal knowledge and use it to against you.
If you are in court because you were injured in a car accident or other incident, you will also be left dealing with your own injuries and emotional turmoil while also trying to learn how to handle legal proceedings on the fly.
Sending a Letter to Fire Your Lawyer
Let’s say you’ve now found your next attorney, have set the wheels in motion, and are happy with your choice.
Congrats! You’ve taken a very important step forward.
If you have reviewed the steps outlined in your current contract, you already know the legal steps you will need to take.
But first, you will want to let your lawyer know that you do plan to end your contract.
The best way to do this is by sending a certified or registered letter to your attorney. This letter should only let your lawyer know to cease any work on your case.
Do not go into the specifics of why you want to break ties with them or any issues you have had with their work or with them personally. Your letter should be professional and to the point. Be formal, and don’t say any more than is necessary.
Changing Attorneys During a Case
Once you have let your current lawyer know that you will no longer be working with them and you have followed any termination steps written out in your contract, it is time to start the process of handing your case over to your new legal team.
If you have already met with your new attorney while you were in the process of terminating your previous one, they likely already have a general overview of your case. Now, they will need all of the paperwork from your old attorney.
Determine who is responsible for getting this paperwork. They may ask that you contact your previous attorney to gather this paperwork, or they may do so for you.
If you are responsible for requesting your paperwork, be sure to set a deadline for when you need to receive it. The sooner you get your paperwork, the sooner your new attorney can begin work on your case.
Otherwise, your legal proceedings may wind up delayed, which can cost you money and even hurt your case.
If you paid your attorney for his or her work in advance, you would also want to request a refund for any time that has been paid but not yet worked.
If your agreement was for a contingency case, meaning that your attorney would get paid based on the settlement you receive in court, it would be up to your new lawyer to pay your old one after your case is settled.
What Not to Do When Changing Lawyers in the Middle of a Case
Following the steps outlined in your contract to terminate your agreement with your old attorney is important. But even more important is remaining professional while you are changing lawyers, especially if you are in the middle of a court case.
It doesn’t matter what the circumstances with your previous lawyer were, or what he or she might have done to hurt your case.
Never bad mouth your previous attorney to your new one, or anyone else involved in your case. You can be honest and forthcoming with your new attorney about the previous issues that you had, concerns that you still have going forward, and mention that it wasn’t a positive experience, but keep it professional and to the point.
Avoid exaggerating or making your concerns overly personal.
Failing to do so could end up hurting your court case. It also won’t help you start building a strong relationship with your new lawyer.
Ensuring a Smooth Transition to a new Attorney
Choosing to change lawyers in the middle of a personal injury case is never an easy decision. But while doing so can put even more stress on you during your case, if you feel that you are not being properly represented or that your best interests are not at the forefront of your current attorney’s mind, you have no choice but to make a change.
If you do decide to change representation during a legal case, make sure that your new personal injury attorney is the right choice for you.
The last thing you want to do is make the same mistake twice and end up stuck in a similar situation.
Find an experienced lawyer that you can trust to carry your case through to the end.
Contact Hutchison & Stoy
If you have any questions about your personal injury or employment case, the lawyers at Hutchison & Stoy are here to help.
Simply give us a call at 817.820.0100 or submit your information in the form on the contact page.