How do I fire my lawyer and what are the possible consequences?

If you are not satisfied with the work your lawyer is doing on your injury case, you may fire him or her. If you have complaints about your lawyer's services, you may certainly contact other lawyers about your concerns and learn more about your options. You can tell the other lawyers you speak with about the problems you are having with your lawyer. These lawyers can tell you their opinion of the situation, and you can act accordingly. However, before you decide you’re ready to “pull the trigger,” there are some things you should keep in mind.

Reasons Why You Should Fire Your Lawyer

Before you decide to dump the lawyer working on your case, you will want to think carefully about why. In some states, you can fire your lawyer for any reason you want, and the lawyer cannot recover the contractual percentage fee from you. However, in A Stressed Out Businessman Reading a ContractTexas and some other states, the lawyer you terminate may be able to recover the percentage fees from you if you don’t have a legitimate reason for firing him or her. This is why it's important for you to know what constitutes "good cause" to fire a lawyer. Here are some examples:

  • Unethical or questionable behavior in getting your case. Sometimes, lawyers use questionable means to contact you and get your case. They may be recommended by the insurance company or another company or person involved in your injury. They may try to meet you in the hospital or at your home before you’ve contacted them. You may receive a letter about your case that suggests you get in contact with a particular lawyer or law firm. If you’ve been contacted by a lawyer or someone has been recommended to you when you haven’t asked, it’s usually a big sign that the lawyer won’t handle your case with your best interests in mind. 

  • Lack of communication. This is one of the most common complaints among clients who end up firing their lawyers. If your lawyer does not promptly return your phone calls, emails, or letters, then you probably have good cause to fire him or her.

  • Failure to keep you updated on your case. Your lawyer has a duty to keep you updated on the status of your claim. This includes status updates about your claim, changes in the lawsuit, medical issues, financial issues, settlement potential, and more. If you find yourself in the dark as to what is going on with your case, you likely have good cause to fire your lawyer.

  • "Referral" to another lawyer without your consent. Sometimes, a lawyer will take an injury case and "refer" it to a different lawyer for handling. This is usually done because the lawyer you hired really is not qualified to handle the type of case you have. You are entitled to know up front, before you hire your lawyer, whether he or she intends to "refer" or "associate" your case to another lawyer. If your lawyer tries to involve another lawyer in your case after you hire him or her, then you likely have good cause to terminate your lawyer.

  • Conflict of interest. The most typical scenario where your lawyer may have a conflict of interest is where he represents you and one or more other people who were involved in the same accident. This often happens in Jones Act cases when many people are hurt in vessel or offshore facility fires and explosions, but it can be a concern in other injury cases, too. If your lawyer signed you up without disclosing a potential conflict of interest to you, then you likely have good cause to terminate your lawyer.

  • Not honoring your decisions. Although you have hired a lawyer to help you, you are in control of your own case. A lawyer can explain why a particular decision would make more sense in your case, but he or she shouldn’t be talking to you about one thing and then doing something else with your case that you haven’t agreed to. You should always look for a lawyer who takes your goals and your choices seriously.

  • Lack of qualifications to handle your case. Some lawyers who don't have the qualifications to handle your claim will nevertheless accept your case, figuring they will read up on the information they need as they go. This is always a terrible idea. Most injury cases involve complicated laws or specific industry knowledge that can be very different than what is involved in other types of legal cases. If you find out that your lawyer is "reinventing the wheel" in handling your case, you probably have good cause to switch to a lawyer with lots of experience handling the type of injury involved in your case.

Steps for Firing Your Lawyer

If you believe you have a good reason and want to go ahead and fire the lawyer you’re working with, it’s important to be careful and organized as you go. This helps protect you should any problems come up later. To be sure you’re covering all your bases, you can follow these steps when firing your lawyer:

  • Do it in writing. Send a letter to your lawyer saying you want to fire him or her immediately. Send your letter by “Certified Mail – Return Receipt Requested.” This way you can prove your lawyer received your letter.

  • Explain your reason for firing. In your letter, fully explain why you are terminating your lawyer. Do not forget to include any reasons you have. If there is more than one reason, include all of the reasons.

  • Request a copy of your file. The file on your case kept by your lawyer is YOUR property. Ask your lawyer to provide you with a copy of your entire file. You will need your file to give to your new lawyer, if you are hiring a new lawyer.

  • Go get your file. If your lawyer does not immediately send you a copy of your file or arrange for you to come get it from the law office, go to your lawyer's office in person and ask for your file. If you are met with resistance, sit in your lawyer's office until he or she agrees to speak to you and give you your file.

Possible Consequences of Firing Your Lawyer

Keep in mind, too, that there are sometimes consequences of firing a lawyer. You probably hired your lawyer by signing a A Businessman Tearing Up a Legal Contractcontingency fee contract, in which you assigned a percentage of your future recovery to your lawyer for his or her fees. This can later become a big problem that means:

  • You may not be rid of your lawyer. Your lawyer may try to keep charging you the contingency fee. Depending on what state you live in, the lawyer may be entitled to charge their contingency fee if you fired them without "good cause," even if they do no further work on your case. If you fired your lawyer with "good cause," then they are not entitled to charge this fee. Your lawyer may "intervene" in your accident case to try to enforce his fee, meaning that he or she becomes a party to your accident case. So, if you have a good reason for firing your lawyer, make sure you communicate and document it every step of the way.

  • You may owe lawyer fees to two lawyers. As mentioned above, if you did not have "good cause" to fire your lawyer, you may end up paying a contingency fee to two different lawyers. You should consult with your new lawyer and get his or her opinion about the chances that you would actually owe lawyer's fees to two lawyers.

If you’re having trouble making sense of the consequences for firing your lawyer, you should consider speaking with a different lawyer about your rights and how to protect yourself.

Do You Have Questions About Firing Your Current Lawyer?

We get these kinds of questions a lot from folks who are having problems with their lawyer. If you have any questions about this topic, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 877.724.7800 or fill out the contact form on our website. We can walk you through the process and help you make sure you're making the best decision for your future.

When you reach out to us, we will review the situation and tell you our opinion about your rights. You may have proper grounds to fire your lawyer and hire a new lawyer. If so, we will tell you that. However, sometimes you may not have proper grounds to fire your lawyer. If this is the case, we will tell you why we feel you don't have grounds to fire your lawyer, encourage you to communicate with your lawyer, and talk about how to work out the problems you are having.


Brian Beckcom
Highest Possible 10/10 AVVO ranking. Husband. Father. Fisherman.