Winning a Divorce Case or A Family Law Case … Firing Your Attorney – Really???
I recently wrote about hiring an attorney in a family law case. I haven’t changed my mind … If you are getting a divorce, or are involved in any type of family law litigation … you need an attorney. Really, no exceptions. Importantly, you need a competent attorney who you trust, communicate with in an effective manner, and handles your case professionally.
Sometimes no matter how hard you work at picking an attorney … you get the wrong one. If that happens … you may need to fire that attorney and get another attorney. This is a serious decision. This decision will have consequences in your case that may include, cost, delay, making your case seem weak, or making you personally seem like a problem to the other side and the Court.
Still, sometimes changing attorneys has to happen. Here is how I suggest you proceed if you think you are having a serious problem with your current lawyer and you may have to get a new lawyer.
- First … check yourself. Since the attorney-client relationship is just that … a relationship, you probably have some part in this situation. Have you been realistic? Have you followed the attorney’s instructions? Have you changed direction? Did you realistically tell the attorney what the case was really about when you hired that attorney? Have you paid the attorney as requested? Are you mistaking normal for a problem?
- Next … check to see if the attorney is really the problem. Sometimes people think the attorney is responsible for things beyond the attorney’s control. For example, most delays are out of the attorney’s control. Court’s reschedule cases all the time. Everything in family law cases seems like it takes more time than it should to the client. If you are unhappy with an outcome, look to see if the outcome of a hearing or trial was the result of the attorney’s actions, like preparation, or simply the result of the Court’s opinion.
- Next … talk to the attorney you have. What is her/his view of the situation? Tell the attorney you are considering changing attorneys. Some attorneys get mad if you tell them you are considering changing lawyers. Too bad, discuss it with them anyway. In family law, the attorney-client relationship requires trust and open communication. If you cannot discus major items, such as you problems with the attorney, how can you proceed to end the case successfully?
- Next … if your conversation with your lawyer doesn’t resolve your concerns, get a second opinion. Your attorney should not be offended if you contact a second or third attorney in order to investigate decide if you should hire someone else.
- Finally, if you decide to fire your attorney and get a new one, do not bad mouth or complain about your old attorney during the remainder of your case. Never! If something really bad happened such as attorney misconduct it will keep until after your case is over.
If you decide to get a 2nd opinion on your case, get a good one. Use a lawyer with lots of experience and credentials. On occasion I am consulted for a 2nd opinion on an existing case. Usually, the person consulting with me has some major issue with their current lawyer. When I am consulted for a 2nd opinion, I give a 2nd opinion. This opinion consists of reviewing how the case is proceeding, the nature of the client dissatisfaction with the current lawyer, how I would proceed on the case and the potential outcomes of the case. I also remind the person consulting with me of the potential consequences of changing their lawyer mid-case.
In forming my 2nd opinion, I usually lean towards keeping the existing lawyer and repairing the relationship. This saves money and often time. It the client decides to fire the lawyer that is their decision. I also tell the person getting the 2nd opinion, they need a new lawyer immediately.
I hope this doesn’t happen to you. I hope your first pick of a lawyer is wise and appropriate. If unfortunately, you must change lawyers, proceed carefully.
If you really don’t know what to do, you can call me. I will try to help you.