Do you feel like changing lawyers is inevitable?
Going through legal troubles produces enough anxiety without losing confidence in your attorney. But, it can be for the best if you start to feel like you have profound differences of opinion.
Is Changing Lawyers a Good Idea?
Making an educated decision at this juncture can be critical to your success or failure. Furthermore, you don’t want to become locked into accepting defeat when you could have been victorious. Consider the well-tested advice below before the least bad option is the last one available.
Can You Change Lawyers in the Middle of a Case?
The good news is that you have the right to replace your lawyer regardless of when you lose confidence in them. While it may not always be ideal, it can be preferable to what may happen if you do not make a change.
What Is the Process for Changing Lawyers?
If you have a new lawyer you want to hire, the good news is they can speak to your old one for you. You won’t have to go through the awkward process of telling them you want to fire them. Additionally, you do not have to give them any notice of the termination.
The court completes a few steps to make the change official. If you are in the middle of a case, your new legal counsel will make sure they happen quickly and smoothly.
For starters, they will handle filing a notice of appearance of lead counsel with the court. The next step is a motion to substitute counsel. This action results in circulating a proposed order on substitution to the other parties involved in the case.
Each attorney needs to sign this document, as well as the judge. Once the handoff is official, your new attorney can obtain files from your previous legal counsel.
What Are Some Good Reasons to Change Lawyers?
An entitlement to change attorneys whenever you want doesn’t make it a wise legal decision. Accordingly, we have provided reasons others have found to justify this action.
An attorney has to give you hard truths based on the legal realities from time to time. You may not want to hear them, but they come from an obligation to offer you zealous representation.
With that understanding, there are also minimum expectations for communication with clients. The American Bar Association has a rule that attorneys must contact clients promptly for the following reasons:
- Consultations about how to meet objectives
- A need to follow through with reasonable requests for information
- Inform clients about the limits of a lawyer’s conduct
- Provide details that the client needs to know to stay reasonably informed
- Any updates on decisions or other circumstances regarding informed consent
As with most things, it’s best to research an attorneys quality, or check their reputation. Attorneys often have hectic schedules, but that doesn’t mean they have an excuse to ignore their clients. Some attorneys will have paralegals handle the majority of this work. If that communication style makes you uncomfortable, consider changing to a lawyer who will answer you directly.
Disagreements About the Direction of Your Case
There is a critical distinction between not liking what your lawyer told you and losing confidence in them. On the one hand, any attorney will have to give you news that is uncomfortable to hear. For instance, informing you of a subpoena or summons, or preparing you on how to give a deposition. But, on the other hand, you have a right to switch legal counselors if you have profound disagreements.
The American Bar Association rightly asserts that a lawyer and their client need to have the same goal. Ultimately, you agree to find a satisfactory conclusion to a legal problem.
This process can take a fair amount of time, humility, and mutual understanding. If you made an honest attempt to accomplish this task together and cannot agree, you absolutely have the right to make a change.
Whether they deserve it or not, over-billing is a classic and common complaint about attorneys.
If you believe your lawyer was dishonest, you can file a complaint with the state bar association. But this scenario should not happen if you have a transparent agreement.
Some practices, like block billing, are less frequent and generally frowned upon by the State Bar of California. Regardless, there are four generally accepted methods for law firms to bill their clients:
- Hourly Rate
- Flat Fee
Pressure to Settle or Accept a Plea Deal
There are a few reasons why you may feel pressure from your attorney to settle a lawsuit or accept a plea deal. They could feel passionately about what is in your best interests. But in other circumstances, you may feel like their only goal is to move on.
If you find yourself in this situation, consider asking yourself questions like:
- Have they provided you with sound legal reasons for their recommendation?
- Do you have reason to believe another lawyer may assess your odds differently?
- Would the opinion of a third party make you feel more confident in making a difficult decision?
Since the law is a wide-reaching profession, it makes sense there is a considerable volume of ethics laws attorneys need to follow. Some of the more common and egregious examples are:
- Subversion of a client’s case
- Violating their scope of practice
- Practicing law without the proper qualifications
- Breaking attorney-client privilege
Do You Want to Connect With a New Attorney?
Changing lawyers is a significant decision that nobody should take lightly. Regardless of this reality, some circumstances call for action or a second opinion on life-changing decisions. Furthermore, you have a right to have legal counsel that shares your goals.