Is it Legal to Change Lawyers Mid-Case?

Whether you are involved in a civil or criminal case, the attorney-client relationship is important. It is part team effort, part business agreement, and part close relationship. The required information you must divulge to your attorney is both sensitive and confidential. At its basic level, this relationship is deeply founded upon mutual trust. When this mutual trust is gone, it is difficult for the attorney and client to continue working together. While some situations cause the attorney to cease representation, other situations result in the client wanting to leave.

A Client is Generally Free to Leave

Generally speaking, a client is free to change his or her attorney mid-case. This is because the attorney-client relationship is a result of a contract for legal representation and judges across the nation do not force parties to stay in this type of relationship against their will. Should a client no longer feel that the attorney is providing effective legal representation, he or she can end the relationship and find a replacement attorney.

Additionally, the original attorney may file a motion to withdraw, which the judge will usually grant. Once the lawyer’s withdrawal has been approved, he or she must return all of the client’s original property and papers and a refund for any unused legal retainer funds must be given. If the client still owes the attorney fees, he or she will be entitled to a lien on any proceeds the client ultimately receives on the case to ensure those fees are paid. The attorney can also hold onto the client’s file until the outstanding fees are paid.

When Changing Lawyers May Not be a Good Idea

While it is certainly not illegal to change attorneys mid-case, doing so can be both costly and stressful. It may be an option for the client to determine what changed in the attorney-client relationship and whether or not this can be fixed. Some factors that should be taken into consideration when thinking about changing attorneys includes:

  • If the new attorney will require a retainer and, if so, how much;

  • Whether the current attorney-client relationship is repairable; and

  • What timeframe will be necessary to allow the new attorney to get up to speed on the case.

When a new attorney jumps into the middle of an hourly case (one where the case is billed per hour worked), a substantial retainer is usually requested due to the amount of work needed to become fully prepared to push the case forward. Additionally, some of this work was already done by the prior attorney, so in essence the client will be paying twice for similar legal services. All in all, choosing an attorney and choosing to replace your attorney is a decision that should not be taken lightly.

In contingency cases, you will likely not have to come out of pocket to hire a new attorney, but the new and old attorneys will have to share the contingency, so depending on how far along the case is, the new attorney may not be interested in representing you. But that’s a discussion you can have with the new attorney—ultimately it should not cost you any extra in a contingency case to switch attorneys.

Legal Help in Nevada

If you are searching for an attorney to handle your matter or are thinking of changing lawyers, be sure to do the research up front. With years of experience representing the injured, the personal injury attorneys at Parry & Pfau may be able to help you. Contact us today for your initial case evaluation.

(image courtesy of Justin Luebke)