Fire Your Attorney
Our relationships with professionals – lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc. – tend to be some of our most unique interactions. We pay them to provide a service, but their knowledge and interaction with some of our most private details elevates them above the plumber we hire to fix the pipe or the sandwich artist at Subway.
As a result, we seek out professionals who see the world we do, people we feel comfortable with, and people who we trust. A search for a professional is nearly indistinguishable from a search for a new friend.
At the end of the day, however, the professional works for you and you pay for his services. Just like any other service, especially in the current economy, you need to be sure you’re getting what you pay for. If you’ve decided that your professional is just not doing the job you’re paying for, can you just fire him?
In the legal world, the simple answer is: Yes, you can fire your attorney at any time for any reason. Attorneys are ethically bound to follow their client’s wishes, even if that wish is to terminate the relationship. Furthermore, your lawyer is bound to maintain the attorney-client privilege (keep all your secrets) even after you fire him. So yes, you CAN fire your attorney.
The more important question, however, is SHOULD you fire your attorney. The simple answer, whether you’re working with an attorney here at Einterz & Einterz, or with one of our many colleagues across the state and county, is NO, you probably should not fire your attorney.
Obviously, there are extenuating circumstances that would change that answer, but imagine you have a personal assistant who is at your side nearly 24/7. Your assistant knows you, knows how you like your coffee, knows your kids’ names and your mother’s birthday. Your assistant keeps your calendar and answers your phone. You are comfortable with your assistant; you trust your assistant. Now, imagine that you have to replace your assistant. You need to find someone new, someone you can be comfortable with. It takes time to train the new assistant to learn your calendar, learn your life, learn you. It would take months, if not years to build the same trust and rapport with the new assistant as you had with your old assistant.
Switching attorneys is very similar, except it comes with a price tag. That time spent learning how you do business? That time spent reviewing your documents and the work your first attorney did? That time getting to know you? That takes time and, for all professionals, time is money – money that you’ll see on your bill.
So, it’s expensive to switch attorneys – but does that mean you should really NEVER switch? No, of course not. But the common reasons we hear for firing an attorney don’t seem to consider the expense of switching. What are these common reasons?
My Attorney Lost My Case. “Lost” tends to be a loaded term in this business. Whether “lost” means you were required to pay a judgment or “lost” means that you still had to pay your own attorney fees at the end of the day, it is no secret that the courtroom can be a very expensive place. Unfortunately, due to the adversarial nature of the modern lawsuit, someone will lose, and someone might win (often everyone loses). You shouldn’t fire your attorney merely because he ‘lost’ your case. Instead, ask whether you felt like your attorney was on your side and had your back throughout the case. If he can’t explain why you lost, if he doesn’t feel remorse for the loss, or if he doesn’t have suggestions for how you prevent the same loss from occurring in the future, then you should consider firing your attorney.
My Attorney is EXPENSIVE! Is $1,000 a lot of money? Without any reference points, its nearly impossible to tell. If it were $1,000 for a drink – it’s expensive, but if it’s $1,000 for a Lamborghini, you’ve got a good deal on your hands. The same is true for attorneys. The question should not be “how much did I pay?” but instead, “did I get what I paid for?” Litigation, for example, is expensive. Even the simplest of cases will cost $25,000 in attorney fees. Taken in a vacuum, $25,000 is a lot of money, but if for your $25,000 you won a $100,000 judgment – you got a good deal. If you paid $25,000, but avoided liability for an additional $60,000 – you got a good deal. You shouldn’t fire your attorney simply because he charges you an arm and a leg – you should fire him if you don’t receive a commensurate value from him. If your attorney loses sight of your bottom line, or truly fails to deliver value for what he charges – you might need to fire your attorney.
My Attorney Ignores Me. This one is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, your attorney may have nothing to report, or might be mindful of your bill and is looking to limit his time (and your expenses), or might be busy with other, more pressing matters. These are realities of the business and, although frustrating, are likely not enough to fire your attorney. On the other hand, if he ignores you consistently, or ignores your input or requests, goes against your wishes, or materially damages your interests, he is not only failing you, but possibly violating his ethical duties.
At the end of the day, the question of whether you should fire your attorney is almost entirely subjective. If you have concerns about your attorney’s performance, costs, or attention your best course of action is to talk to your attorney first. This is, first and foremost, a service business. Although we often use legal tools to do so, our first job is to understand and address our client’s concerns.
Communicate with your attorney. If you feel he is charging you to much, ask him why he charges what he does, what he thinks you’re getting for that much money, and whether there are other options for how much he bills. If you feel like you lost your case, express your displeasure with your attorney. Put him on the spot and make him justify his existence.
We take pride in knowing our clients, addressing their concerns, preventing problems, and providing solutions. We invite your inquiries!