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Nobody Fires Their Lawyer!

Stuart Gelboar

For as important as a lawyer can be when the needs arises for legal assistance, the business relationship that's formed between attorney and client must be one that's founded on trust, integrity and the sharing of a common goal. When something in this alliance breaks down, there's sometimes no other option than to seek the services of a different lawyer ' which means having to fire the one that's been handling the case until that point. Certainly, firing someone is never a pleasant experience, and often brings out the worst in people. If the relationship has deteriorated to the point where the very elements of its foundation have been crushed, then it's time to move on ' but it must be done very carefully.

Once the decision has been made to seek new legal counsel, don't make the mistake of firing your lawyer before you've secured another one. Good legal representation can be hard to find ' particularly if you're immersed in a case that requires someone with a very specific ' or obscure ' type of specialization. After the new attorney has been secured, be sure to instruct your first lawyer to cease all communications with any parties that are connected with the case.

Make sure you put your request in writing, once the decision is made, and you have found another attorney. Then either hand-deliver it to your lawyer or send it certified letter. You will need to have proof, so you cannot rely on a verbal confirmation. You will also need to have an exact day when the relationship ceased to exist in order that any disputes about fees or services can be settled. This termination of services letter will serve as proof.

Within the body of the letter, don't use inappropriate language or exaggeration of any sort. It's important to clearly state the reasons for dismissing your lawyer, including any relevant events ' complete with dates and, when possible, times. Conversations, too, will be helpful, if they relate to the reasons for the termination. Put simply, document everything that pertains, in any way, to the reasons for firing your lawyer in a letter and make sure that you can confirm its delivery.

Especially if your lawyer agreed to any reductions or waivers, you should document any pre-arranged agreements regarding fees and payments. Be sure you can itemize these. As they say, "If it ain't in writing, it ain't.", so you should make sure that nothing of this was in the form of a verbal agreement. If it is not written, you'll probably be held responsible for the full amount of any services, even if you made some kind of agreement with the lawyer outside of your contract or retainer.

Even though the letter will be dated, directly state the termination date of the lawyer and his or her services.
Often, letters can be written after the fact and, if this should become an issue, you'll have covered all of your bases within the contents of the letter. Don't be surprised, though, if you find that it's not as easy to fire an attorney as what you might have expected.
Sometimes ' particularly if you have a pending court case ' the judge doesn't allow the termination of legal counsel, since it might serve to delay the proceedings.

Yes, it is a complex process, but you will eventually be able to fire a lawyer you are not happy with or who has not been handling your case to your satisfaction. But if you been careful throughout the relationship to document all communication and any problems as they arose, you can make that process less burdensome for you.

Stuart Gelboar is the owner of which is an excellent Internet resource for Lawyer information. For more details please visit

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