Firing Your Lawyer

If you are unsatisfied with your current lawyer’s service or you have a personality conflict with them, you can shop around for another lawyer

Everyone is entitled to one mistake.

If you are unsatisfied with your current lawyer’s level of service or you have a personality conflict with him/her, you can certainly shop around for another lawyer.  If you and your current lawyer are working on a contingency fee basis then you can change lawyers without any extra expense to you and the estate. If you are working on an hourly basis with your current lawyer, then there will be some extra expense because the new lawyer has to spend time “getting up to speed” on the file.

Where your lawyer is working on a Contingency Fee Agreement, the usual situation is that the new lawyer will take over the file by paying the disbursements of the current lawyer. At the end of the claim, the two lawyers work out an arrangement whereby they share in the overall fees charged based on a percentage of work performed by each lawyer.

Therefore, you should not be paying any additional legal fees for hiring a second lawyer compared to staying with the first lawyer to the end of the case. Also, the fees owing to your first lawyer should not have to be paid when you fire him/her, but rather, the fess should be paid at the end of the case.

In terms of disbursements (i.e. out of pocket expenses) that have been incurred by your first lawyer, the usual practice is for the second lawyer to pay out the first lawyer for the disbursements. Hence, you should not have an obligation to pay any disbursements at the time of moving your file to a new law firm.

The above scenario only applies for Contingency Fee Agreement. If you are paying a lawyer by the hour and decide to move the file to a new lawyer, usually the first lawyer needs his/her fees and disbursements paid out before the file is transferred to the new lawyer. You may be able to get your current lawyer to agree to a solicitor lien on the file and to be paid out at the end of the claim if that was the previous agreement with him/her. However, don’t count on that happening.

There is a note of caution in changing lawyers.  If you go to a second lawyer and then decide to fire him/her, good luck trying to find a top end lawyer to take your case regardless of the merit of the case. The reality of the situation is most lawyers are very cautious about taking on a client who has gone through a number of lawyers. You are, in essence, “black listed” unless you have an excellent reason behind the transfer of the file between several lawyers.  The impression left is that you are a difficult client who will never be satisfied regardless of the level of service and the results.

Therefore, you really only have a chance to try out maybe two lawyers before suddenly you will have difficulty getting one of the better lawyers in the community to represent you.

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