Ending An Attorney Client Relationship

As with any professional that you hire, there may come a time when you want to fire your attorney. You may feel, for instance, that your attorney is not acting in your best interests and that you might have a better outcome in your legal matter if you were working with a different attorney.
 

Can You Fire Your Attorney?

As a general rule, you may fire your attorney and hire a new one to work for you, just as you would do with other professionals such as doctors and electricians. You have the right to pay the attorney of your choice to represent you in a legal matter. If the attorney that you are working with is not meeting your needs or your expectations then you can usually fire that attorney.
 
While, in many cases, you can terminate your relationship with your attorney and hire another it is not always as easy as ending a relationship with a plumber, accountant or another professional. Some courts will not allow a client to fire an attorney close to the beginning of trial absent extraordinary circumstances. This is to avoid the unnecessary delay in the trial date that would certainly result if a new attorney were to take over close to the beginning of trial. For that reason, it is important to think about whether or not you want to continue with your attorney well before the trial date.
 
Some jurisdictions allow an attorney to hold on to a client’s file until the attorney has been paid in full for his or her services. Other jurisdictions do not put such a limitation on a client’s choice of representation and require the attorney to forward the file to the client’s new attorney once the first attorney receives notification that a new attorney has been retained. However, it is important to remember that the client is responsible for any outstanding bills to the existing attorney regardless of whether or not the first attorney forwards the legal file or new counsel has been retained.
 

How to Fire Your Attorney

It is important that your attorney clearly understand your intention to terminate his or her services. There are two ways that you can make your intentions clear and erase any chance of confusion. First, you can hire a new attorney and ask the new attorney to contact the former attorney and inform the former attorney of his or her termination. Second, you can write a letter to the attorney informing the attorney that you are terminating the attorney client relationship.
 
It is important to remember that in most cases an individual hires an attorney for a single legal matter. Therefore, if you use an attorney to handle your divorce you are not barred from using another attorney to draft your will or to represent you in a real estate transaction. You do not have to give the first attorney notice that you are using another attorney for another proceeding.
 
A client must be confident in his or her attorney’s legal skills and zealous advocacy. If either is doubted then it is usually time to look for another attorney who can provide the legal services necessary to ensure a positive outcome.
 

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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