Firing Your Personal Injury Lawyer
Can I fire my lawyer in a personal injury case?
A personal injury client has the absolute right to fire their lawyer, with or without cause. The lawyer can be fired at any time during the case. The client can terminate their lawyer for any reason, or no reason at all. The client will not be required to provide any basis for their decision either to the lawyer, the court, or anyone else.
6 Reasons Why a Client Might Fire Their Personal Injury Attorney
Here are six reasons why a client might decide to fire their lawyer:
Reason #1: Failure to Communicate
The lawyer fails to respond to communications received from the client. Lawyers need to communicate frequently with their clients to keep them posted on what’s going on with the case and to show that they care about their clients. Where a client calls, texts, and emails the lawyer multiple times and the lawyer shows a pattern of failing to respond in a timely manner, the client may get fed up with it and decide to fire the lawyer.
Reason #2: Disrespectful Behavior
The lawyer acts disrespectfully toward the client. Lawyers should be professional, courteous, and respectful toward their clients. Unfortunately, not all lawyers live up to this standard. When lawyers are rude to their clients, yell at their clients, or otherwise show a lack of respect, this can lead to the lawyer getting fired.
Reason #3: Breach of Trust
The lawyer breaks the client’s trust. Lawyers must do everything in their power to earn, and then keep, their clients’ trust. If a lawyer does anything that the client interprets as being untrustworthy, such as being deceitful, no matter how seemingly minor the issue, the client will immediately lose faith in their lawyer and may the attorney-client relationship to come to an end.
Reason #4: Financial Problems
The lawyer is screwing the client out of money. When a lawyer represents a client, the lawyer assumes the highest level of fiduciary duty to the client. If there is any breach of this duty, such as improperly billing the client or mishandling trust funds, the client has every reason to fire the lawyer.
Reason #5: Illegal or Unethical Conduct
The lawyer is engaging in any kind of illegal or unethical conduct. Lawyers are obviously not supposed to break the law or ethical rules in their representation. Clients need to pay attention to this kind of misconduct and lawyers can expect to be fired if they engage in such misconduct.
Reason #6: Poor Performance
The lawyer is doing a terrible job. Clients don’t just want their lawyers to be “competent,” which is the mediocre standard set forth by the State Bar of California. Clients expect their lawyers to perform with excellence and to achieve the best possible legal results for their case. When a lawyer’s performance falls far short of the high standards that a client expects, the lawyer is in jeopardy of getting fired.
Get a Second Opinion Before Firing Your Lawyer
Now and then, I receive calls from personal injury clients who are disgruntled with the performance of their current lawyers. I think clients have every right to call other attorneys for what I consider to be a “second opinion,” similar to a patient who receives a diagnosis from one doctor who wants a second opinion. In fact, I would recommend that any client who is thinking about firing their lawyer call another lawyer to get a second opinion.
During these calls, I’ll listen very carefully to the complaints that the client has about their lawyer and try to put together as much information as I need to assess the situation. I’ll provide my honest opinion about what’s going on with their case and the relationship with their attorney.
Frequently, I will advise the client to stay with their current lawyer. It’s often the case that the client doesn’t have a clear understanding of what’s going on with their case, which is usually a result of their lawyer not explaining things very well. Once the client understands that their lawyer isn’t necessarily doing anything wrong, I will usually provide some recommendations on what the client can do to improve the relationship they have with their lawyer. I will usually tell the client that they need to request a sit-down meeting with their lawyer to clear up any miscommunications and misunderstandings.
Once in a while, I will have the opinion that there are substantial problems with attorney-client relationship. Again, I’ll give the client my honest opinion about what’s going on. Regardless of how bad I think things are, I will never recommend that the client fire their lawyer. This can theoretically constitute tortious interference with a contract. I will give the client my opinion and let them decide what they want to do.
Sometimes this results in the client making further attempts to improve the relationship they have with their lawyer. Other times the client will decide to fire their lawyer and hire my firm. We’ll go to work on the case and do the best we can for the client.
If you would like a free consultation regarding a personal injury matter, please call Suits Litigation, Inc. at (408) 637-5413.