The most common reason given by people who fire their attorneys is a lack of communication. Often, clients don't seem to realize their case isn't the only one their attorney is handling and get very impatient. Still, any good lawyer will provide a timely response to their clients' questions and give an explanation for a perceived drop in attention.
3 things to consider when firing a personal injury lawyer in Wisconsin
1. Fee arrangements: Look over your contract.
The attorney retainer may have provisions in it for compensation of time in the event of a termination. There are laws governing how these work. Your lawyer may have contingency fees based on time invested or on winning your case. You should have your new attorney review the contract you had with your old attorney to make sure everyone understands where your old attorney's fees are coming from. Bear in mind that after medical bills and 2 attorney fees your overall compensation could be significantly less than expected.
2. Notification of termination: Tell your old lawyer and the court.
Formal termination of services notice is required. A certified return receipt letter is recommended. You can do this on your own or have your new attorney handle it. In either case, the letter should request that all work on your case stop and that your case files be turned over to your new attorney or to you. If you want your new attorney to receive your files, be sure to provide his contact information.
The court will need to be notified of your change of attorneys so your new one receives all future communication from the court. It is customary for the new attorney to file a notice with the court advising them of the change in your representation.
3. Pending stuff: Outstanding motions and half-done work
Occasionally, there are loose ends and legal motions in progress that need to be handed off. Ask your attorney what needs to be considered and how to best facilitate the transfer.
Frequently asked questions about changing attorneys
Is it too late to get a new lawyer?
If your case is not pending in court, you have the right to fire your lawyer at any time. If it is, however, you may need to request the court’s permission to do so. Changing lawyers in the middle of a case, particularly when hearing dates are scheduled, can throw a wrench into things. Your new attorney will likely need time to get up to speed on your case, which often results in hearing dates being rescheduled for a later time—often much later than you’d prefer.
Should I get a new attorney before I fire my current one?
While you cannot officially retain another attorney until you’ve ended your contract with your current one, you should definitely have a new attorney lined up before firing your current one. Obviously, you need to interview other lawyers and make a decision as to whether you think one of them will do a better job than your current lawyer. If you decide to move forward with a new attorney, let him/her know and then end the contract with your current attorney.
What should I say in the letter to the lawyer I'm firing?
It's best to keep it simple and to the point. For instance:
"Dear (insert attorney's name here),
I will no longer be needing your services in my case, as I have decided to hire another attorney. I will need to get my case file at your earliest convenience. Please contact me at (your phone number or email address) when my file is ready to be picked up."
Handling this letter yourself instead of having your new attorney handle it will save you a little money. If you don't get a timely response from your old attorney, then have your new attorney follow up. We don't recommend citing all the reasons you've chosen to fire your attorney, and definitely advise against using the termination as an opportunity to launch into a tirade against your attorney.
Will changing lawyers hurt my case?
If your goal is to get an attorney you think will better represent you, then changing attorneys won’t hurt your case. It may, however, cause delays since your new attorney will need time to get familiar with your case. This will also cost you money. If there’s a rapidly approaching hearing on the docket or a deadline for responding to interrogatories, it’s probably not good timing to get another attorney on board. At least wait until there’s a lull in the action.
As for perceptions, as long as you're not routinely changing attorneys the court will not look upon your decision negatively. However, if you repeatedly fire and hire attorneys, it definitely reflects poorly on you. Before you fire your current attorney, make sure the one you're hiring is on board with your expectations and be willing to stick with your decision.
If you're considering firing your attorney, it's important to take a critical look at the state of your case and determine if your attorney is dropping the ball or if your expectations are unreasonable--and unlikely to be met by a different attorney. In many cases, problems clients have with their attorneys can be ironed out with a frank discussion. In other cases, it's best to look for an attorney you believe will do a better job for you.
Before it gets to the point where you're taking steps to fire your attorney, consider having a tough conversation with your attorney. If he/she knows why you are considering leaving, they may change how they handle your case.
Injured? it is about the money®
Milwaukee's Car Accident & Personal Injury Attorneys