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My attorney is not returning my calls or emails.

San Jose, CA |

I have signed up with an attorney to handle my car accident case.
I have sent him emails and voice mails but he is not replying. This has been going on for several months now. His sectretary last told me that have just moved and he will get back to me shortly.That was over a week ago. I do not trust him any more especaily after reading online that he has professional misconduct on his records. What can I do? Can I terminate my aggreement with him without any penalties and choose a new law firm? Is there a way I can get more information on him to see if he still has a license to pratice?

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Attorney answers 3


Personal inkjury lawyers often do a huge volume of cases, and don't spend much time with each client. But that's no excuse. Lawyers need to return clients' calls and emails within a reasonable amount of time.

Linked below is the State bar site, where you can verify his address, the status of his license, date of admission to the bar, undergrad and law school, and whether he has a history of State Bar misconduct.

You, as the client, are always able to terminate your lawyer. Since this is an accident case, you most likely hired him on a contingency basis. Check what your written fee agreement says, it probably says you can fire him but will owe him for out of pocket costs, if he's incurred any, and if he's done work on your case, he may file a lien on your recovery, if any, for his percentage, which he'd had to fight about with whatever new lawyer you hire. This isn't a penalty, it's compensating the lawyer what he's earned for work he's done. If he hasn't done any work, he shouldn't have any costs incurred or any lien on your case.

Your entitled to get a copy of his file on your case, and he's not allowed to withhold that even if you owe him money. The file will show whether or not he's done any work on your case.

Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.


In addition to my colleague's excellent suggestions, you can go to the courthouse and look at your file there or check on line at the court website. You can also find another personal injury attorney, show them your retainer and let them advise you.

Disclaimer: The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change.


You can terminate a contingent-fee contract with an attorney at any time. If you have just cause for the termination, the attorney will probably not be able to claim compensation for his time invested in your case so far.

I would suggest that you write your attorney, keeping a copy of the letter for your records, advising him of your dissatisfaction with his lack of communication and requesting that he set up a face-to-face meeting with you within the next 10 days to discuss the status of your case. If he fails to do that, you certainly could seek other counsel and chances are no court would award him money for the time he has already placed into your case, due to his lack of communication and attention to your concerns.

The California State Bar can also provide you with some additional information as to his license status.

Legal Disclaimer:

Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter in question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to ensure that proper advice is received.