Your lawyer represents your interests. They advise you, advocate for you and negotiate legal outcomes to your advantage. This arrangement is the same in both criminal and civil cases.
You don’t need to be best friends with your attorney, but you should be able to speak freely to your legal counsel. You should feel confident about the advice and representation you’re getting.
If your attorney isn’t returning calls or doesn’t seem knowledgeable about your case, you may feel your anxiety rising. You might even wonder if you should hire a different attorney.
You can change lawyers at any time. However, a change in legal counsel is disruptive. It’s important to carefully consider before you make a change. Trust your gut, but also consult your head before firing a lawyer.
Signs You May Need to Change Your Lawyer
Lawyers can become busy or distracted, but there’s no excuse for neglecting their obligations. The following are red flags that your lawyer isn’t giving you the attention you deserve:
- They don’t return calls or emails within two business days.
- Files are disorganized or misplaced, requiring you to resend documents or refill forms.
- They miss filing deadlines or ask for extensions without giving a valid reason.
- They repeatedly reschedule appointments.
- They don’t fully answer questions and address your concerns.
- They don’t adequately advise you of options, explaining the pros and cons of different legal paths.
Everyone has emergencies, but if your lawyer repeatedly reschedules or makes mistakes, it’s time to find another professional.
Talk to Your Lawyer Before Making a Change
Have a conversation with your attorney and outline your concerns. Be polite, firm and specific about why you’re unhappy with the job they’re doing. You can write a list of grievances to present to your lawyer.
Give your lawyer a chance to answer. Listen to what they have to say. You may realize that, after all, they have been doing a good job and you want to keep them on.
But, if you aren’t satisfied with the outcome of your meeting, look for a new lawyer. The decision is up to you. Sometimes, clients simply don’t have faith in the job their attorney is doing. That is enough reason to move on especially if it’s early in the case.
Find a New Attorney Before Leaving Your Old One
In most cases, you should find another attorney before breaking ties with the old one. In a court case that’s underway, it’s particularly important not to have a gap in legal representation.
You’ll need to tell the judge that you’re making a change, and the judge may even ask a lawyer to stay until you find a replacement.
You should look for referrals for another lawyer. The local bar association may be able to provide names of attorneys with the needed expertise for your case. Most lawyers offer free consultations. Set up several meetings to interview candidates.
A new lawyer will require time to study your case and files. If your attorney charges by the hour, you’ll get a bill for the time spent getting up to speed. Remember that the new attorney will have to retrace some of the steps completed by your old attorney. In some ways, you’re starting over when you hire a new lawyer.
You don’t have to stay with someone who isn’t doing a good job. If change is needed, don’t hesitate to take action. Just remember, though, that changing lawyers prolongs your case and creates more expense.