If you have a personal injury case and are wondering whether you should fire your lawyer and hire another one, you need to ask yourself why you are thinking about changing lawyers. Problems between client and lawyer can arise in the following situations:
When any of these problems occur, it is time to at least consider changing lawyers. Let’s look at each of these situations individually.
This can literally be the million dollar problem. The job of a personal injury lawyer is to get the client compensation (i.e., money) for the client's injuries. If your lawyer is not competent to get a satisfactory result for your personal injury case, then you should certainly fire your lawyer and hire a new one.
But how can you determine that the lawyer is not competent? Law is not your area of expertise. It’s hard to evaluate the competence of someone in a different field. If you call up other personal injury lawyers to discuss your case with them, you run the risk that they will not be objective because they might want your case for themselves. “It certainly sounds like your lawyer doesn’t know what he’s doing,” they might say, “I think that you should dump him/her and come with me.”
You have to have a more objective way of judging your lawyer’s competence. You should ask to meet him/her face to face to review your concerns. An experienced, confident, competent lawyer will always make time to meet his/her clients. Lawyers who consistently avoid their clients probably have a guilty conscience.
You should ask to see your file. Again, a lawyer with nothing to hide or fear will always give you a copy of your file. You certainly have a right to see your own file, but lawyers with something to hide will make excuses and will try to avoid producing your file.
Finally, when you discuss your problems with your lawyer, you have to make a judgment call based on your own common sense and knowledge of human nature. Does your lawyer inspire confidence, or does he/she seem like he/she is lost? Does the lawyer have reasonable answers to your questions? If it seems like your lawyer is struggling to answer your questions, and does not seem to know what is going on, then it is probably time to make a change.
This is not always a deal breaker. Remember that the purpose of a personal injury lawyer is not necessarily to be the client’s friend and hold the client’s hand. Many personal injury clients do indeed need their lawyer to be a friend, and many personal injury lawyers are indeed warm, friendly people -- but some are not, although they are perfectly good lawyers.
If you don’t like your lawyer much as a person, but you trust him/her, and believe that he/she is a good lawyer who is otherwise the best lawyer for your case, then maybe in that situation you keep the lawyer, especially if you are the type of person who doesn’t need much hand-holding.
If you are just looking for a professional relationship with a lawyer who can do a good job for you, then it should not be particularly important whether you and your lawyer have a good personal relationship, as long as you can do business with each other. But if having a warm relationship with your lawyer is important to you, you certainly should consider changing lawyers if you and your lawyer do not get along well.
Lawyers not returning client phone calls is one of the leading causes of complaints to lawyer disciplinary organizations. If you cannot get in touch with your lawyer, that is often evidence that there could be a problem.
Perhaps your lawyer has too many cases, perhaps he/she is understaffed, perhaps the staff is incompetent, or perhaps the lawyer is incompetent. If your lawyer has a pattern of failing to return your phone calls, letters or emails, that is generally a good sign that you need to find another lawyer.
The attorney client relationship is all about trust. If you find yourself questioning your lawyer’s ethics or judgment, or feel that you no longer trust him/her, then it is time to find another lawyer.
Before you choose to end the lawyer-client relationship though, here are some important considerations.