The quality of the working attorney-client relationship is vital to the success of the case. Clients and lawyers who work well together dramatically increase the likelihood of obtaining a favorable result. Conversely, lawyers and clients who display all the symptoms of a dysfunctional relationship tend to take it out on the case. Changing lawyers mid-stream-putting aside the increased cost and stress which often accompany such a change-tends to transmit a clear signal to the opposing side that "problems exist." While these problems may have absolutely nothing to do with the underlying case, the opposing side may misinterpret the cause of the break-up and conclude that the case is in trouble, leading to lower settlement offers. In short, attempts to salvage the attorney-client relationship are well worth the effort.
It is the absolute right of any client to dismiss their attorney at any time
It is a fact of life that Personal Injury lawsuits, as a general rule, require years, rather than months, to reach a conclusion. This is a product of both the nature of a personal injury lawsuit-which requires investigation and "discovery"- and crowded court calendars. This situation also leads to the increased chance that a client will become dissatisfied, in some manner or for some reason, with some aspect of his or her attorney's performance.
It is the absolute right of any client to dismiss their attorney at any time. It is also the right of that client to choose another attorney and to replace the dismissed attorney with another attorney. In legal parlance this is known as "SUBSTITUTION OF ATTORNEYS." No grounds need be stated-though any responsible attorney to be "substituted" will want to know the reason he is being asked to replace the original attorney.
What happens if you change lawyers?
What happens if you change lawyers?
The choice of a lawyer in a personal injury or wrongful death case is an important and, hopefully, once-in-a-lifetime matter. However thoughtfully the choice is made, there are times when the need can arise for a change. Massachusetts law provides that clients have a right to change lawyers. However, when there's a contingent fee agreement involved, a change of lawyers requires consideration of fee issues. The rule is that the discharged lawyer or firm is entitled to be paid the reasonable value of their services and out-of-pocket expenses while representing the personal injury or wrongful death client on a contingent fee agreement. However, since there has been no award or settlement at the time of the lawyer switch, the discharged lawyer or firm is not entitled to be paid until and unless the new lawyer obtains and collects a verdict or settlement
Choosing the right attorney can be a daunting process
Choosing the right attorney can be a daunting process. There are a lot of attorneys that will be eager to help you. However, not all of them will give you the time and attention that you deserve and need. The decision of which attorney to select is yours to make. Do not agree to hire an attorney if you do not feel comfortable with him or her at the initial consultation. Additionally, just because you meet with an attorney about your case, does not mean that you must hire that attorney. Be sure that the attorney that you hire handles the type of matter you need help with. There are some attorneys out there that are willing to "dabble" and help anyone with anything. Our advice to you is to choose an attorney that you trust. Not every personal injury matter resolves quickly. Therefore, you might be working with this attorney for a significant period of time.
Find a new attorney
Once you make the decision to go forward and find a new attorney, you should begin interviewing other attorneys and explain to them what is happening. Depending on where you are in the case, the old firm may be entitled to a portion of any award. Ask your current lawyer to draw up a bill showing the current fees and expenses. For contingency cases, the new attorney will pay the old one the balance owed from the damages collected. Your portion of the settlement or judgment remains the same.
If you do decide to switch to a new attorney, understand that he or she needs some time to understand all the facts of your case. Your current attorney must follow local rules and procedures to withdraw from the case. In addition, the current attorney must return your property and forward the papers to the new lawyer, and must continue to protect your confidences.
Additional resources provided by the author
Howard Roitman, Esq.
8921 W. Sahara Ave.
Las Vegas, Nevada 89117