Odds are that a person engages an attorney at least once during his or her lifetime. Indeed, in this day and age, the average person has the need for legal assistance more than one time. In most cases, the relationship between a client and attorney progresses appropriately. Most individuals end up generally satisfied with the efforts of their lawyers.
There are instances in which a client becomes dissatisfied with the services provided by a particular attorney. This is more commonplace in the divorce and criminal defense arenas than in other areas of the law, according to the American Bar Association.
When a person reaches the juncture at which he or she decides to fire an attorney, certain steps must be taken. These specific steps are necessary to fully protect the rights and interests of the person firing an attorney.
Put Notice of Dismissal in Writing
When the decision is made to terminate the services of a lawyer, the notification to legal counsel must be made in writing. A traditional letter is the appropriate type of communication, signed by the client.
Obtain Your Client File Promptly
In the letter bringing representation to an end, a client also needs to request that the attorney provide a complete client file. Keep in mind that rules regarding attorney conduct do require the lawyer to maintain a copy of your client file for a specific period of time. Nonetheless, as a general rule, original documents contained in a file should be conveyed to a client, and not duplicates or copies.
Consult with Another Attorney Immediately
A person who has terminated the services of a lawyer must retain new counsel with all deliberate speed. This particularly is vital if litigation is ongoing at the point of the termination of an attorney. (As an aside, there are instances in a criminal case in which a judge may not permit the termination of counsel to occur. Although this is not commonplace, it can happen – particularly if a defendant in a criminal proceeding has terminated prior counsel.)
Advise the Court or Opposing Counsel of Termination
When a person has ended a professional relationship with a lawyer, that individual (or a successor counsel) must notify the court and opposing counsel of the change immediately. If a case is ongoing in court, it may be necessary to request a continuance or a delay in those proceedings to accommodate new counsel.
Obtain an Accounting of Fees
Finally, request a specific accounting of fees from the terminated attorney. Rules regarding attorney conduct require that such an accounting be provided to a former client under these circumstances.
By following the strategy and tips outlined in this article, a person is able to undertake a smooth transition from one lawyer to another. The possibility of negative fallout potentially associated with firing an attorney is minimized.