If you are currently represented by an attorney but are not satisfied with his/her services, please do yourself a favor and fire him/her. This is not to be confused with a situation where you do not like what your attorney is telling you. I frequently tell my clients things they do not want to hear because I have an obligation to tell them the truth. Like it or not, you will most likely not get everything you want in this process, so allow your attorney to guide you accordingly. If, however, you feel you are not getting that guidance or if you feel your attorney is not listening to you, you should seriously consider terminating his/her representation. Following are some guidelines to help you differentiate when you should fire your attorney as opposed to when you are just upset that you are not getting everything you want.
This is the biggest complaint I hear from people who come to me after firing their attorney. There is no excuse for this, and there is no need to explain this any further. I have an obligation to return your calls promptly, and I will. If you are paying someone who is not promptly returning your calls, fire him/her.
I particularly hate hearing this one. Many people come to me after having fired their attorney and tell me that they were scared to ask the attorney a question or scared to call them. In my office, this is my job. I am here to answer your questions and, often, to find out how you are holding up throughout this process. I want to make sure you are staying strong and that we are on the same page, so I will frequently check in with you. You will not always like what I tell you, and if your attorney is simply giving you the facts and you don’t like hearing the hard truth, the problem is you. If, however, you are feeling bullied by your attorney and scared to discuss your case with him/her, fire him/her.
There is no gray area with this one. If you are my client, you will know what is going on while your case is underway. You will know the next step at every turn. You should never hear that your attorney was in Court after the fact. I will notify you of every Court date and invite and/or require you to be present with me in Court. We will prepare together in advance of the Court date. Don’t settle for anything less. Your matter is likely one of the most significant events that you will experience in your life. Don’t settle for being kept in the dark as you go through the process. If things are happening without your knowledge, fire your attorney. Likewise, if you have to constantly call your attorney to find out what is going on or remind him/her of an upcoming event in your case, fire that attorney. I often say that a large part of why my clients pay me is to take the burden off them. You have enough stress, angst and emotional turmoil swirling around you. You should not be worrying about whether your attorney is on the ball. Your attorney should be initiating contact with you on a regular basis. If not, fire him/her.
Once again, there is no gray area. If your attorney says one thing and does another, fire him/her. Do not confuse this with your case changing course. Often times, developments arise which may cause your matter to take a different turn than you had, at first, anticipated. That is fine as long as you are kept in the loop and your attorney is discussing your matter with you every step of the way. The same is true with your attorney changing his/her advice. This makes sense as your case develops. For example, reasons for settling your matter in a fashion which may not have seemed acceptable at an earlier time in your case may suddenly become more pressing. The law may change or evidence may surface which makes your attorney change his/her mind about a certain strategy. This is common as family law matters are constantly evolving. If, however, your attorney specifically tells you he/she is doing one thing and does another, fire him/her.
The truth is that the attorney-client relationship is, in its most basic form, just like any other relationship in your life. If you are not getting a good vibe, you should not be in that relationship. That being said, you need to ascertain whether your expectations are unreasonable or if your attorney is truly not hearing you. Just because you don’t like hearing what your attorney is telling you is not a reason to fire your attorney. Just because you do not want to be friends with your attorney is not a reason to fire your attorney. As I said above, I often tell my clients things they don’t want to hear, and most of them hate hearing it at the time. The law does not always comport with our notions of fairness and equity. My job as an attorney is to tell you the law and to get the best result for you given the hand we are dealt, that is, given the facts of your case. With that in mind, you need to consider whether your attorney is telling you what is in your best interest. You need to consider why your attorney is giving you particular advice. Is it because you think he/she is lazy? If so, fire him/her. Is it because he/she will get more money if you take a certain route which you are not really comfortable taking? If so, fire him/her. Overall, you need to consider the fact that you do not want to be constantly fighting with your own attorney. You can have minor skirmishes along the way but, at the end of the day, you will maximize your result when you and your attorney are a united front. If you are not a united front, that is, if you do not feel that your attorney has your back, fire him/her.