Can I Change Lawyers During a Case? Essential Guide

Written by Big Easy Lawyers
Last updated Sep 19, 2023
Can I Change Lawyers During a Case - Big Easy Lawyers

Navigating a legal case can be a challenging and stressful experience for those involved. Having a lawyer who understands your situation and can effectively represent your best interests is crucial. However, there may come a time when you feel that your current lawyer is not meeting your expectations or providing adequate representation.

In such instances, you might wonder, “Can I change lawyers during a case?” The short answer is yes. You can obtain new legal representation if you have lost faith or confidence in your current lawyer. Clients have the right to change counsel when they feel their present lawyer is not effectively representing their interests. However, it's essential to understand the process and potential implications of changing lawyers mid-case to make an informed decision.



Reasons to Change Lawyers During a Case

Lack of Communication

One significant reason clients may decide to change their lawyer during a case is their lack of communication. A healthy attorney-client relationship relies on open, frequent, and clear communication. If your lawyer is not updating you or is unresponsive to your calls, emails, or requests for updates, it can create frustration and insecurities about the case's progress. This communication gap can lead to a disconnection, which may warrant finding a new lawyer.

Unprepared or Incompetent Representation

It may indicate incompetence if your attorney is consistently unprepared for hearings, meetings, or filings. This can hinder the progress of your case and might result in a negative outcome. Additionally, if your lawyer does not seem up to speed with recent legal developments or procedures for your specific case, it can pose risks to the outcome. In cases where the legal representation is inadequate, clients may choose to switch lawyers to protect their best interests.

Loss of Trust and Confidence

Trust and confidence are the foundation for a healthy attorney-client relationship. If, at any point, you feel that your lawyer is not taking your case seriously, or if they engage in unethical behavior, you may lose faith in their ability to represent you. This can undermine the effectiveness of their representation and may lead to a need to change lawyers during the case.

Legal Fee Dispute

Legal fees can become a contentious issue during a case, especially if your lawyer charges fees that were not explicitly agreed upon or significantly exceed industry standards. Suppose you believe your lawyer is taking advantage of your situation, attempting to overcharge you, or is being unreasonable about their fee structure. In that case, you may choose to end the attorney-client relationship and find new representation.

Personal Conflict

Sometimes, clients may find that their personalities or communication styles clash with their lawyers, leading to personal conflicts. These conflicts can negatively impact the attorney-client relationship, breaking down trust and communication. Changing lawyers during the case could be necessary when personal conflicts interfere with a lawyer's ability to represent your best interests effectively.


Terminating Current Lawyer - Injury Lawyer Index


The Process of Changing Lawyers

Changing lawyers may lead to additional costs and delays in your case. However, if you believe that a new lawyer will provide better representation, the transition can ultimately be beneficial to your case outcome.

Obtaining a Second Opinion

Before making the decision to change lawyers, it's a good idea to seek a second opinion from another lawyer. This can help you assess whether your concerns are valid and provide insight into how another legal professional would handle your case. Schedule a consultation with a potential new lawyer, discuss your situation, and evaluate their approach to your case.

Terminating the Current Attorney-Client Relationship

If you decide to change lawyers, the first step is to terminate your current attorney-client relationship. You can do this by sending a formal termination letter to your present lawyer. Be sure to include the reasons for termination and request that they forward your case file to your new lawyer. Before the transfer, be prepared to settle any outstanding fees or charges with your current lawyer.

Hiring a New Lawyer

Now that the current attorney-client relationship has been terminated, you can proceed to hire a new lawyer. Ensure that your new lawyer is experienced in handling similar cases and is available to take on your case immediately. Set up a new consultation, review the terms of the attorney-client relationship, and sign a new engagement agreement.

Transitioning Between Lawyers

Transitioning between lawyers requires effective communication between all parties involved. Your new lawyer will need to be updated on the status of your case, review the documents provided by your previous lawyer, and create a strategy moving forward. Be prepared to discuss your expectations, concerns, and goals with your new lawyer to ensure a smoother transition and better understanding of your case.


Key Takeaway: Ensure you have new legal representation lined up before terminating your current lawyer. Then, you must confirm that all financial responsibilities are handled and case files transferred to your new attorney.


Legal Formalities and Documents

When you decide to change lawyers during a case, some certain legal formalities and documents must be prepared and submitted. These are mainly aimed at informing the court, the judge, and the other parties involved in the case about the change in representation.

Notice of Appearance of Lead Counsel

The first step in changing your lawyer during a case is for your new lawyer to prepare a document called the Notice of Appearance of Lead Counsel. This document will inform the court and all parties involved in the case that a new attorney is now representing you. The Notice of Appearance typically includes:

    • The new lawyer's contact information.
    • The name of the party they are representing.
    • A statement that they are now the lead counsel in the case.

Motion to Substitute Counsel

The next step is for you or your new attorney to file a Motion to Substitute Counsel with the court. This motion requests permission from the judge to allow your current lawyer to withdraw from your case and your new lawyer to take over. The motion should explain the reason for the change in representation, such as dissatisfaction with the current lawyer's performance or a conflict of interest between you and your current lawyer. It is important to note that the final decision regarding the substitution of counsel rests with the judge, who will consider the reasons provided and the potential impact on the case, trial, or settlement.

Proposed Order on Substitution

Once the Motion to Substitute Counsel has been filed, you or your new attorney should prepare a Proposed Order on Substitution. This is a document in which the court outlines the permission granted for the change in counsel and any associated requirements, such as deadlines for submission of legal documents or appearance at court hearings. The judge will review the Proposed Order, and once it has been approved, both the current and the new lawyers will have their roles officially changed in your case.


Key Takeaway: Changing lawyers during a case involves specific legal formalities and documents to inform the court and all parties involved about the change in representation, as well as seeking the judge's approval for the substitution of counsel.


Financial Considerations - Injury Lawyer Index


Financial Considerations and Expenses

When changing lawyers during a case, it's essential to consider the financial aspects and potential expenses involved. This section'll discuss the retainer agreement and fees, settlement amount and compensation, and the cost of transferring the case.

Retainer Agreement and Fees

retainer agreement is a contract for services as agreed upon by you and your lawyer. This agreement should outline the terms of their services and the fees involved. When changing lawyers, reviewing the existing retainer agreement is essential to understand if any refund or billing disputes might arise. Keep in mind that terminating the current agreement might result in additional fees, such as:

    • Unearned retainer fees
    • Hourly fees for services already rendered
    • Expenses incurred during the case

It's also crucial to consider the fees of the new lawyer when changing counsel. Depending on the arrangement, these might include a new retainer fee or hourly rates.

Settlement Amount and Compensation

The impact of changing lawyers on the settlement amount and compensation depends on various factors, mainly:

    • The current state of the case
    • The progress made by the existing lawyer
    • The reasons for changing lawyers

Typically, the current and new lawyers may split the previously agreed-upon fee according to the percentage of work each of them did on the case. This division might lead to changes in the overall compensation. Ensuring that the switch will not adversely affect the potential settlement is essential.

Cost of Transferring the Case

When transferring a case, there might be additional costs connected to the process. The new lawyer will need to review and familiarize themselves with the case details, which may result in added expenses. Be prepared for the following costs when changing lawyers:

    • Time and effort for the new lawyer to get up to speed
    • Potential delays in trial or settlement negotiations
    • Charges related to transferring files and documents


Key Takeaway: Changing lawyers should be carefully considered, taking into account the financial implications and the potential impact on case outcomes.


Potential Risks and Disadvantages

While changing lawyers is possible, it's important to consider the potential risks and disadvantages before deciding.

Getting Your New Lawyer Up to Speed

One potential risk when changing lawyers during a case is the time it takes for your new lawyer to get up to speed. They must familiarize themselves with your case, relevant laws, and any existing trial strategies. This might lead to:

    • Time spent reviewing documents: Your new lawyer will need to review all case files, correspondence, and case history to ensure they thoroughly understand the situation.
    • Possible duplication of work: Tasks that your previous lawyer completed may need to be redone by the new lawyer to ensure accuracy and understanding.
    • Additional fees: The time required for your new lawyer to become familiar with your case could result in higher legal fees.

Possible Delays in the Court Process - Injury Lawyer Index

Possible Delays in the Court Process

Switching lawyers might also cause delays in the court process. Some possible reasons for this include:

  • Rescheduling hearings: Judges may need to reschedule hearings to accommodate your new lawyer's schedule.
  • New lawyer's availability: If your new lawyer has existing commitments, it could take some time before they can work on your case, potentially causing further delays.

Impact on Your Case Outcome

Changing lawyers during a case can impact the outcome in several ways:

  • Judge's perception: A judge may view frequent attorney changes as an indication that the client is difficult to work with or that the case lacks merit.
  • Relationships with opposing counsel: A good relationship and open communication between opposing counsel can help facilitate settlement negotiations. A new lawyer may need time to establish rapport with the opposing side.
  • Losing potential advantages: Your previous lawyer might have developed specialized knowledge about your case through previous court appearances or mediation sessions, which your new lawyer may not possess.


Key Takeaway: One must evaluate the possible risks and disadvantages of changing lawyers during a case. These risks include getting your new lawyer up to speed, rescheduling court hearings, and losing any already established case knowledge or relations with opposing counsel.


Final Thoughts on Can I Change Lawyers During a Case

It's your right to change lawyers, and you should not hesitate to make this decision if it's in your best interest. Finding a lawyer who communicates clearly, understands your goals, and aligns with your expectations will help ensure a more successful outcome in your legal case.

Assessing the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Case

When considering whether to change lawyers during a case, it is essential to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Reflect on the evidence, the arguments made, and the legal strategy your current lawyer is using. Comparing this to alternative approaches a new lawyer might take can help determine if changing lawyers is the right decision.

Evaluating the Attorney-Client Relationship

The attorney-client relationship is vital during a case, as it ensures effective teamwork and open sharing of sensitive, confidential information. If trust is lacking, or your lawyer is unresponsive and unavailable, it might be time to consider switching lawyers. A more communicative and responsive lawyer could significantly impact your case's success.

Importance of Trust and Open Communication

Trust and open communication are key components in any attorney-client relationship. Misunderstandings can happen when there is a lack of communication or miscommunication, negatively affecting your case. Ensure that the attorney-client relationship includes clear expectations for updates and returning calls. It might be time to find a new lawyer if you're struggling with communication issues despite attempts to address them.

Weighing the Costs and Benefits

Before deciding to change lawyers, weigh the potential costs and benefits. Changing lawyers can result in additional fees and time spent bringing a new attorney up to speed on your case. However, if the benefits of improved communication and a better attorney-client relationship outweigh the costs, then it might be worth considering a change.

Taking into account the various factors mentioned above will provide valuable guidance on whether to change lawyers during a case. Carefully evaluating each aspect helps ensure that the decision you make is in the best interest of your case and your chances of success.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I switch attorneys mid-case?

Yes, you can generally change lawyers in the middle of a case. If you have lost faith or confidence in your lawyer, you have the right to change counsel. Ideally, it is good to communicate with your lawyer about the issues making you unhappy and give them a chance to fix the problem.

When is it too late to change lawyers?

There is no specific deadline for changing lawyers, but it is advisable to make the decision as soon as you realize you are unhappy with your current representation. Changing attorneys at a very late stage in the case could cause unnecessary delays and complications. Always consult with another attorney before deciding to change representation.

How does changing lawyers affect my case?

Changing lawyers can cause some delays in your case, as the new attorney needs time to assess the situation and catch up on the details of your case. However, in most instances, the case can proceed without significant disruptions, especially if the new attorney is experienced and familiar with your type of case.

Do I Need to Contact the Local Bar Association?

Contacting your local bar association when considering changing lawyers due to a lack of trust, communication issues, or suspected unethical behavior is possible. They'll be able to offer guidance and recommend other suitable lawyers for your case, ensuring that you receive the best legal representation possible.

What is the process of changing attorneys?

To change attorneys mid-case, you must notify your current lawyer in writing that you no longer require their services. The court and all parties involved in your case must also be advised of your decision. Your new attorney will need to submit an appearance form to the court. Additionally, your former attorney must hand over your case files to the new representation.

Do I need a reason to change my lawyer?

While you are not legally required to provide a reason for changing attorneys, it is essential to be clear about your concerns and dissatisfaction with your current lawyer. Evaluating your reasons and discussing them with another attorney can help you understand the best course of action for your case.

You May Also Like…