by Steven F. Stuhlbarg, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist
Firing your lawyer can have a high cost. It may be difficult to find a new lawyer in the middle of a case, and it may be expensive to bring a new lawyer up to speed. It may be difficult for your new lawyer to meet deadlines that may exist in your legal matter. And there is no guarantee that you will be any more comfortable with your new lawyer than you were with your old lawyer.
If you do fire your attorney, the discharged attorney still has obligations to you. He or she must cooperate with you or with your new lawyer in making the transition. The discharged attorney must return important documents or evidence to you or to your new lawyer. If you are facing a deadline, the discharged attorney may be obliged to assist you by either getting the court’s permission to extend the deadline, or by helping you or your new lawyer to meet the deadline. The discharged attorney has a continuing obligation not to disclose confidential information about you, even after he or she no longer represents you, and may not use confidential information about you to take unfair advantage of you.
When you fire an attorney in the middle of a case, the fired attorney is generally entitled to be paid for his or her legitimate work performed on your behalf. In contingency fee cases, the fired attorney may be entitled to a percentage of the proceeds eventually obtained through settlement or judgment.