What to Know Before (and After) Firing Your Lawyer in Georgia
Terminating the services of a lawyer in Georgia is easy. You just send a short email, letter, fax, even a text stating that you no longer wish his or her services and ask that he or she send you your complete file. You have a strong constitutional right to have the lawyer of your choice represent you on a case. Regardless of the agreement that you may have signed, that agreement cannot prevent you from replacing that lawyer. It would be unconstitutional if it did. Any written communication will be fine to terminate the relationship. A phone call would work as well though you would want to have a clear communication in writing so there was no room for misunderstanding.
What is much more difficult is knowing whether it is in your best interest to terminate your current lawyer and hire someone else. Below are some things to do before you fire your current lawyer.
Have a heart to heart. Before firing your lawyer, ask to speak to him and her about what is bothering you about the representation. A common phrase is “the wheels of justice move slowly.” That has never been truer than in these Covid-19 times. If you’re terminating your attorney because you feel your case is not moving fast enough or you feel like you are not receiving timely updates or the lawyer is not returning your phone calls, ask the lawyer what you should expect with respect to timelines, updates and returned phone calls. Any good lawyer will be glad to speak to with respect to expectations and should be able to lay out a high-level timeline regarding when certain events should happen with respect to your case. If you cannot get your lawyer to have such a conversation with you or the lawyer is unable to explain what expectations are, it may be time to break up.
Speak to other lawyers. Before you fire your lawyer, you should have an idea as to whether or not another lawyer will be ready, willing, and able to pick up your case. If you are frustrated with expectations being set by your current lawyer either with respect to expected results or timeline to achieve them, it may be because you have a more challenging case than you realize. Other lawyers may not be interested in taking your case or if interested, they may not be agreeable to do so on terms as favorable as you have with your current lawyer or may have an even lower expectation about potential case outcome. The last thing you want is to fire your lawyer and then left trying to represent yourself. (Rarely if ever likely to yield a successful outcome). Speaking to other lawyers about challenges may make you appreciate the representation you are receiving.
Research reputation of current lawyer. Go to state’s bar directory and see if the lawyer has been the subject of any disciplinary proceedings. Does your lawyer have reviews or ratings on Google, Yelp, AVVO or other lawyer directories? What do those reviews say? Most all lawyers will have a bad review or two so focus on the overall impression majority of clients leave. Are positive reviews specific such that they appear genuine or does it appear lawyer mines anyone and everyone for a “5-star” review to get his or her numbers up. You will certainly want to compare the on-line reputation with the lawyer with whom you are considering as his or her replacement.
Speak to your prospective new lawyer about transition. Make sure your new lawyer is asking questions about pending deadlines. Your prospective new lawyer should be asking questions such as, “has suit been filed?” Have you been deposed (other lawyer asked you questions under oath in the presence of a court reporter)? Have you responded to written questions from the other lawyer? Have any Motions been filed such as Motions to Dismiss, Motions for Summary Judgment, etc. Who are the lawyers on the other side? Are there any hearings or trial dates scheduled? Who is responsible for obtaining the file? You or your new lawyer? What is the time frame in which the new lawyer will be able to review your file and get fully up to speed? If your prospective lawyer is not asking these questions, he or she may not be the right lawyer for you.
Have a candid conversation about legal fees with current and prospective lawyer. If you owe legal fees to your current lawyer or are on a contingency fee agreement, your current lawyer may have the right to file a lien against any recovery you should receive in your case. Ask your current lawyer what can be done to compensate them for time on the case and whether they intend to file a lien. You should also ask your prospective lawyer about his or her thoughts with respect to fees owed to previous lawyer. It is a small legal community, even in the biggest of metropolitan areas. Nine times out of ten fee issues can be resolved between the lawyers. However, you do want to make sure you and your new lawyer have a plan and you want to make sure you do not grossly overpay for legal services. For instance, on a contingency fee case (where the fee is a percentage of the recovery), you need to know if the new lawyer is taking the case on a full contingency fee and expects that you personally deal with any attorney-lien filed by previous lawyer separately. There are situations where that is the case, but such situations are rare. Regardless, if your case is such a situation, your lawyer should explain to you clearly why it is so. Otherwise, too much of your recovery will be consumed by legal fees on the case.
Considering Hiring a New Lawyer?
If you’re reading this because you’re considering terminating your current personal injury or medical malpractice attorney in the State of Georgia, contact the personal injury lawyers at The Baer Law Firm at (404) THE-BAER (404.843.2237) for an analysis of your legal matter and the current progress on your case. During our consultation, we’ll answer your immediate legal questions to the best of our ability, give you advice on whether it makes sense to change lawyers and provide an outline of what you can expect from us if you choose to change legal representation.
Attorney Bryan Baer has twenty (20) years of legal experience representing clients in serious and catastrophic personal injury and medical malpractice cases. He has been first chair in more than a dozen twelve-person jury trials on both the plaintiff and defense sides. Recognized as a leader in his legal community, he is frequently asked to speak at legal seminars on trial topics ranging from “Best Practices in Voire Dire” to “Maximizing Damages at Trial” as well as insurance issues such as “Navigating the Insurance Landscape” and “Injury Demands & Negotiations.” Learn more here.