ISSUES WITH YOUR LAWYER
Addressing Problems with Your Attorney
If you have issues with your lawyer or become unhappy with their services, there are several steps to take. Firstly, you should try to talk to your lawyer about your concerns and try to work them out. Some misunderstandings can be cleared up easily with open and direct communication. You can also write your concerns down and request an email or written response. If you are still not happy or uncomfortable, you have every right to end the relationship and find a new lawyer.
If you decide to change your legal counsel, you may want to have the next attorney lined up and up to speed with your case. If your original lawyer has appeared for you in court and is on record as your legal counsel, you can change that by filing a Consent to Change Counsel document.
If you have not lined up new legal representation ahead of time, the process may become more complicated, and you may need to carry on without counsel. Once you hire a new lawyer, that person will need to file a notice of appearance with the court.
Your attorney also has the right to no longer represent you. Your lawyer can withdraw from your case if they provide adequate notice and sufficient opportunity to find a new one. Reasons an attorney might withdraw from a case may include a lack of agreement on how to proceed with the case. Or, an attorney may withdraw if you can no longer pay their fees. If your lawyer wants to withdraw without your permission, or there is a disagreement, an order from the court will be required for withdrawal to proceed.
Once the lawyer-client relationship ends, you should expect the prompt return of all your papers and property in the attorney’s possession. You should also expect a refund of any unused money you gave to cover expenses and costs, or unearned portions of the retainer deposit. You should ask your lawyer immediately for these items, including a breakdown of all of the expenses and costs. Be prepared to follow up until you receive them. If you have not provided full payment to your attorney, he or she may have justification to retain your file and any monies belonging to you.
If you feel you have a valid complaint against a lawyer, you can contact the Lawyer Disciplinary or Grievance Committee that oversees the area where the attorney is practicing law. If you have a conflict with your lawyer about the fees you owe or fees already paid, your lawyer is required to participate in a state-sponsored arbitration program. These programs handle lawyer-client legal fee disputes within an established monetary value.
However, these programs do not cover fees in a personal injury or criminal case. If you have a fee dispute that is not in one of those categories, you should file a client request for arbitration with the appropriate program in the area where your attorney practices law. If you think your lawyer has taken your money or property wrongfully, you can apply for reimbursement from the Lawyer’s Fund for Client Protection. This fund was established to help people who have lost monies or properties due to an attorney’s dishonest conduct in their law practice.