Personal Injury Lawyers
Attorney Van O'Steen

Dissatisfied Client Has Option of Firing Lawyer, Hiring Another

Van O'Steen

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Most Americans see attorneys as a necessary evil. This view is not without some justification. I prefer to think that the evil, if any, rests with the reason for the hiring, rather, than the attorney.

Lawyers most often are employed under unpleasant circumstances. They enter an emotional atmosphere that can cloud the client's judgment. Credit problems, marital problems, criminal matters, accident injuries, and business and insurance disputes account for most attorney activity.

Regardless of these circumstances, however, some clients become unhappy for good cause with the service they receive from their attorneys. The same is true, of course, with our doctors, accountants, auto repairmen, insurance companies, restaurateurs, barbers and others.

If you employ an attorney to assist you with a legal matter, and you become dissatisfied with his or her services, you need not remain committed to that attorney." You may discharge your attorney and employ another or simply represent yourself.

In most court cases, however, you may not change attorneys solely for the purpose of causing delay. In addition, court rules limit an attorney's ability to withdraw from a case under most circumstances. Generally, you are free to discharge an attorney with whom you are dissatisfied.

If you are unhappy with the services of your attorney, and you cannot resolve the problem, consult another attorney before firing the first. Ask the second attorney for advice about your rights and obligations if you decide to fire your original attorney.

If you fire your attorney, you may have to pay him or her for the work performed on your behalf, but you need not continue the relationship to the conclusion of your matter. In cases where your attorney is to be paid on a contingent-fee basis—that is, he or she will receive a percentage of what you recover—generally, your former attorney and your new one will reach an accommodation that keeps your percentage fee consistent with your original agreement. ┬áThese fee agreements are most common in personal injury and other accident cases.

The State Bar of Arizona administers a fee-arbitration system for resolving disputes between attorneys and clients. If you believe you were charged too much for legal services, whether you fired your attorney or not, contact the State Bar for information about fee arbitration.

In any event, do not be intimidated by your attorney. Remember, it was your decision to hire—it is your decision to fire.