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Not happy with my lawyer, do I stick it out with him are is it time to bail?

Los Angeles, CA |

I hired the lawyer almost 4 months ago and the only thing that he has done is appeared at court twice and once he had a stand in come in for him. I have tried to be patient since he is busy with other cases and trials, but he won't even request certain discovery from the DA (keep saying he will but hasn't). I'm now 45 days to trial and I truly believe he hasn't even read my police reports. Is it common for lawyer to wait closer to trial to start working on a case?

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

You must be satisfied with your attorney BEFORE you go to trial or accept a plea offer. You should meet with your attorney as soon as possible to determine what he has done and plans to do in connection with your case. You may learn that he is well prepared to defend your case. However, it is important for you to learn this now. When you call to make an appointmnt to speak with him, you should accomodate his schedule. It is in your interest to meet with him even if the time and place may not be convenient to you. You have invested time and money in this attorney you owe it to yourself to make sure you can trust him. Its your life and liberty which is at stake. Also be ready to find out that you can trust him. Don't wait until you have developed animosity towards your laywer to the point that you can not restore your trust in him.
If after meeting with your attorney, you decide that you cannot trust him, you should tell him that you want a new attorney. Do not write directly to the Court unless you attorney refuses to withdraw. The judge will respcet your decision to change attorneys if the judge sees that you are acting in a rational way. Writing to a judge and saying that you don't know what your attorney has or will do is likely to appear irrational unless your attorney refuses your request to meet with him accomodating his schedule.
On the other hand, you can not wait to the trial date to switch attorneys. Many judges will not allow a defenbdant to change attorneys on the eve of trial unless the incoming attorney is willing to start the trial as previously scheduled. Most attorneys will not accept a new case on short notice because they would not have time to adequately prepare.
In looking for a new attorney, do not expect that the incoming attorney will try to get the outgoing attorney to turn over the fees you paid him. Many attorneys have provisions in their retainer agreements providing for minimum fees if the retainer is terminated. Your new attorney will have enough to do getting ready for trial. In addition, if you owe money on that minimum fee, your state law may give him a lien on your file and he may legitimately hold it until you pay waht you owe him.
Since your case is scheduled for trial in 45 days, use the next week to ten days to try to work out your concerns with your attorney. If you are unable to do so, your outgoing attorney, your new attornwy, or you should notify the Court more than 30 days before the trial date so that the Court can readjust its schedule.
Good luck.

THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT LEGAL ADVICE. They are offered for informational purposes only.


This is a very difficult question to address on a forum like this. Your attorney has made three appearances (two of which he personally attended). We have no idea what transpired at those hearings. We also have absolutely no idea what you're being charged with and what the evidence against you looks like (but even if we did, that information alone would still not be sufficient to gauge what he has or hasn't done). There are many legitimate reasons why he'd have a "stand in" for one of the court appearances.

As to your belief that he wasn't started working on the case, there's a lot that an attorney does "behind the scenes" to prepare - and it's possible that it wouldn't be immediately apparent to you as a client. I don't know what "most attorneys" do - but I certainly don't think they wait for trial to come around before they start preparing.

Talk to your attorney - express your concerns. If you feel strongly about your dissatisfaction, then consult another attorney. The bottomline is that an informed opinion requires knowledge of the particulars of your case (and you shouldn't post them here).


i agree with the above attorneys regarding communicating with your attorney and having trust in your attorney before going to trial. I do want to point out that having a "stand-in" for a criminal court appearance is not uncommon, especially when the court appearance itself does not involve substantive legal issues. Although, it is good practice for an attorney to inform his/her client ahead of time when a "stand-in" makes an appearance and the reasons for that "stand-in" to make the appearance. Also, it is the attorney's job to determine what discovery should be obtained. The client's input may be valuable in making that determination, but ultimately, the attorney is the one that decides what to discovery to request. Finally, your attorney should never be too busy to prepare for trial in advance. If the attorney is that busy, he/she has no business taking your case in the first place. All attorneys have a duty to zealously advocate on behalf of our clients, and this includes thorough and timely trial preparation. If you are dissatisfied with your current attorney, you can find other competent attorneys on this website, many of whom offer a free consultation.