How many professionals tell you when to fire them? Not many. I’m not a lawyer yet, but I’m happy to explain when lawyers should be fired.
I am a licensed Virginia attorney, but this isn’t legal advice. This post is educational only
Fire your lawyer if…
He’s a jerk.
Nobody wants to pay hard earned money to a jerk. As the client, it’s your right to fire your lawyer, even if he’s just being a jerk. You don’t need a special reason. I hope I would be fired for being a jerk.
He’s not really a lawyer.
It is against the law for someone to practice law without a license. It’s called the “unauthorized practice of law.” If somebody holds himself out to be an attorney or lawyer and isn’t actually a current member of the bar, that is illegal. I wouldn’t want to be represented by an impersonator, do you?
He didn’t properly care for your property.
Lawyers have an ethical obligation to properly care for your property. If you entrust something to your attorney, and he doesn’t take care of it, he can be disciplined by the state bar. To illustrate, a guy asked his lawyer to hang onto his gun collection for a little while. The attorney put the guns in the garage; they rusted. Disciplined! Fire that guy.
He sat there silently as you confessed.
Criminal Procedure 101 – shut up! If you’re being interrogated by the cops, your lawyer shouldn’t let you talk freely. What you say will be used against you. After talking with your lawyer, you might decide together to talk. But if he doesn’t even consult you first, get a new lawyer.
He doesn’t listen to your goals.
Attorneys plan the tactical strategy of your case. But he’s ethically bound to follow your goals, assuming they’re legal and ethical. If you want to plead “not guilty,” your lawyer must go along with you. He can try to dissuade you, but he can’t go against your overall goal.
He deposited an advance payment with his general funds.
Your lawyer must properly account for money that you pay to him. If you pay him a “retainer,” that is a payment to ensure his future availability. He earns that when he agrees to be available to you. But if you pay him an “advance,” that money must be deposited separately. Any fees you incur must be taken out of the advance, since the lawyer only earns that money as he does work for you. If your lawyer runs off with an “advance,” that’s stealing. Yep, fire him.
He sold you a one-size-fits-all form.
Very few legal matters can be solved by filling in the blanks. A simple house purchase might, but not much else. If your attorney doesn’t do proper research and spend the time to get your case right, he’s no good.
He didn’t notify you of a settlement offer.
Generally, lawyers are ethically bound to notify you of every settlement offer, even if it’s laughable. It is your decision whether or not to accept it. If you find out that your attorney turned down a settlement offer without telling you, show him the door!
His interests conflict with yours.
Conflicts of interests are complicated. But a simple version is that your lawyer can’t represent people on opposite sides of the same legal matter. There are lots more rules and plenty of exceptions, but be cautious. If you are asked to sign any kind of conflicts waiver, read it, ask questions, and understand it before you sign.
He waived your grounds for appeal.
Very few cases have an automatic right to an appeal. It’s important that the first run is done correctly to preserve the possibility of appeal. This typically means your attorney must object to errors and make sure they are noted on the record. If you lose and you have no appeal preserved, find a new lawyer for future matters.
He’s sleeping with your wife.
Not only is this lawyer a jerk (see #1), but he’s also un-ethical. Lawyers are ethically required not to enter into sexual relationships with clients. Your wife is probably close enough to constitute a violation. You guessed it; fire him!
Have you fired a lawyer?
Now’s where I get your feedback. Have you ever fired an attorney? If you feel comfortable sharing your story, we’d love to hear it. Post a comment below.
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