When you hire an attorney you trust that they will advocate for your best interest and fight hard to see that your life and liberty are protected. Most attorneys take this charge very seriously and dedicate themselves to zealously representing their clients. But sometimes, the attorney-client relationship breaks down and it can feel like your attorney isn’t doing everything needed to see that your case gets a good resolution. If that happens, it’s important to know that you have options including the right to seek out and hire a new attorney. Unfortunately, the process for hiring a new attorney isn’t as easy as letting your current attorney know their services are no longer needed. Below you will find some things to consider if you are thinking about hiring a new attorney and the steps you will need to take if you decide getting a new attorney is in your best interest.
When it’s time to consider getting a new attorney:
Your attorney’s goal should be to get you the best resolution possible. Sometimes this means getting the best plea deal, other times it means representing you at trial. Regardless, you should feel that you and your attorney are working together to get the best outcome. If it starts to feel like this isn’t the case, then it might be time to think about getting a new attorney. Here are some things to look for to determine if your attorney isn’t giving your case the attention it needs:
- Your calls aren’t returned within a reasonable about of time. This timeframe might be different if you call on a weekend or major holiday.
- Your attorney asks you to provide documents over and over again because he or she can’t keep track of your file.
- Your attorney never seems to know what’s going on in your case. Most attorneys keep detailed notes about their clients’ cases. Though they may need to refresh their memory, they will still be able to talk with you in detail about your case.
- Your attorney asks the court for repeated time extensions and doesn’t explain why he or she needs the extensions. Continuances are normal in the justice system, but asking for a case to be continued multiple times for no reason isn’t normal.
- You and your attorney have a “breakdown in communication.” This can mean that you feel that your attorney isn’t letting you voice your concerns about the case or it can mean that your attorney isn’t keeping you up to date about how your case is going. The attorney-client relationship is built on effective communication and if you and your attorney can’t/aren’t communicating then that’s a problem.
- You believe that your attorney is no longer providing effective representation. This might be because your attorney isn’t doing what they promised they would do, like speaking with witnesses and reviewing discovery. Or it could be because your attorney isn’t filing motions that you both agree are important in your case.
What to do if you decide you want a new attorney
If you are having problems like those mentioned above, it’s probably time to reach out to your attorney and express your concerns. There’s a possibility that you all can work out the issues in a way that doesn’t require firing your attorney. If you’ve talked with your current attorney and you still believe hiring a new attorney is in your best interest, then there are several steps you will need to take to ensure that your new attorney is able to represent you.
- Make sure you know who you want to hire before firing your current attorney and get confirmation that the new attorney can takeon your case. Many judges will only allow your current attorney to withdraw you can prove you have a new attorney.
- The best time to change attorneys is prior to any important court dates, like the grand jury hearing for felony cases and the probable cause hearing for misdemeanor cases. Getting a new attorney at the early stages of the criminal process can be critical to getting a better resolution. If your case is already well into the criminal process, you will need to get a attorney that can quickly get up to speed on your case. Your new attorney will likely only be granted one continuance to catch up on your case. Keep in mind that a judge might not allow your current attorney to withdraw if it’s just days before trial.
- If you know the attorney you want to hire, you need to then contact your current attorney and let him or her know that their services will no longer be needed.
- Both your current attorney and the attorney you want to hire will need to file motions with the court so that the court and opposing counsel is made aware of the change in counsel. Your current attorney will file a Motion to Withdraw and your new attorney will file a Notice of Appearance.
- Once the court accept the withdraw of your current attorney and the entry of appearance of your new attorney, the transition is almost complete. The final step is getting a copy of your file from your old attorney to your new attorney. Most attorneys are able to work out this transfer between themselves. But sometimes you can be required to pick up the file from your old attorneys office and pay for the copy of the file. Remember that your old attorney can only charge you a reasonable amount for the copy of your file and can’t withhold your file from you.
How to find a new attorney
If you need a new attorney and don’t already have someone in mind there are many resources available to help you find the attorney to best help you. Below are just a few ways to find your new attorney.
- Check reputable websites like Avvo.com. Attorneys on these sites are rated based on many factors like their case history, years of practice, and awards. You can also read former client reviews to get an idea of how the attorney interacted with their clients.
- Ask the local bar association for recommendations.
- Ask friends, family, or coworkers for recommendations.
- Do a quick google search of attorneys in your area. You can compile a list of local attorneys then check out their websites to learn more about them and their practice.