I have been told repeatedly to hire another lawyer ASAP. How do the fees workout between the old & new attorneys? This is for a pedestrian accident case, close to trial. I am also seriously considering going pro se. I've read more people are representing themselves. I know it's a risk but I don't know how I could pay two fees.
The wording of your representation agreement with your original attorney is likely to be very important in this situation. The answer to your question may depend on the circumstances of your attorney's withdrawal, and whether your situation was addressed in your contract.
In many cases, an attorney's contingency fee interest survives that attorney's withdrawal from the case. If the court has approved the attorney's withdrawal, most likely the attorney had good grounds for withdrawal and is still entitled to his share of the proceeds, if any. That means if your original attorney is entitled to 40% of the net proceeds, you and any new attorney you hire may have to split the remaining 60%. If you don't think the work that your original attorney did is worth whatever percentage you are paying him, you can dispute the amount and it is possible that he will voluntarily lower his fee to resolve the dispute.
You may want to have another attorney at least look at your representation agreement and determine what your rights are in this situation. Unless you are in small claims court, it may be very difficult for you to prevail in the case pro se, especially if the other side is represented by an attorney.
Under a contingent fee arrangement there is only one fee and if there are two different attorneys it is generally up to them to work out the "fair" split. I defer entirely to the attorney in your state who has already answered your question based on TX regulations, which vary from state to state.
The link below is an article generally explaining contingent fee agreements.
Finally, do not go "pro se." There are too many evidentiary and procedural challenges that are a mine field for those not experienced in trial work. For example, I was defending a case a few years ago and the plaintiff fired their attorney and went pro-se. At trial, I objected to all of their evidence because they did not follow the rules; none of their evidence was admitted and they lost the case. As bad as I felt for them, I did my job for my client, winning the case outright. Do not do this to yourself.
Hi, I am sorry to hear about your situation. #1 I would not suggest anyone handle their own case if they can have an attorney handle it for them; #2 If had an attorney in your situation that quit on me I would call hsi/her office and tell them I want a copy of my file along with a release of all interest in any fee in the case. Your attorney may have withdrawn for a number of reasons such as health concerns, lack of finances or many other reasons. If they will not return your call regarding this, I would show up at their office the following day and tell the person at the front desk that you want both of your file and a release of interest letter. Add the State Bar of Texas attorney grievance number on your cell phone speed dial and if your told you can't have these, call the state bar from their office. I would also ask for the digital verision of my file, (bring a flash drive with you). #3 I would then take the file to other firms to see if they will take the case, the fact the attorney who is quitting on you releases his interest may make it easier to find another attorney. Good luck. Aaron
As other counsel has/have noted, the first place to look is your retainer agreement. Most such agreements provide that if the attorney withdraws or is terminated, he may still have "lien" rights to recover for his/her time spent on the case and/or to recover costs incurred on the client's behalf. As a practical matter, unless the work completed was substantial, many attorneys agree to limit or waive their lien under those types of circumstances, especially when the attorney "quits." When you discuss the case with new counsel, be sure to address this issue of the former attorney's possible claim against the recovery, which may require the new attorney to "share" the attorneys' fees, but under most circumstances, there is very little justification for increasing the percentage of attorneys' fees due under the contingent fee agreement, simply because the client has to change lawyers.
I do not recommend that you handle this pro se. Attorneys who handle these cases are trained in the Texas Rules of Evidence, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code, etc., etc. Unless you have time to attend law school and an internship prior to your trial, you better get an attorney.
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