Several times a month, I receive a phone call or email from a prospective client who wants to fire his existing lawyer and wants to know if I would be interested in taking on his case. Generally, the reasons why the prospective client is unhappy involves the following:
- my case is taking too long to settle
- attorney not returning my phone calls
- I am not receiving benefits and my attorney does not seem to be doing much about it
- I am unhappy with my medical care and my attorney can’t seem to get me to another doctor
- I only seem to hear from my lawyer’s assistant but never the actual lawyer
Without exception, I advise any potential client who is already represented to make every effort to work out whatever problems exist with his/her current lawyer. Like many areas of the law, negotiations and discussions between a claimant’s lawyer and an insurance adjuster or insurance defense lawyer in a workers’ compensation can occur behind the scenes. Sometimes a simple communication issue, such as an overprotective receptionist, can create misunderstandings. Other situations are completely out of any claimant’s lawyer’s control, such as delays in scheduling hearings before the State Board.
I try to run my practice (and my life) by the golden rule – treat others they way I would like to be treated. I do not believe in “poaching” cases from other lawyers and I would be suspicious of any lawyer who encouraged an already represented client to fire his existing lawyer.
There are, of course, some attorney – client relationships that cannot be repaired. In such a case, after trying your best to salvage the relationship, you can terminate your lawyer. You should do so in writing and after you have at least a verbal commitment from a new lawyer to take your case.
Recognize that the old lawyer may file a lien on your case and ask for payment for work actually performed (the old lawyer will have to file documentation supporting his claim for payment).
If you have hired and fired two or more lawyers, you may find it increasingly difficult to find another lawyer to take your case, so you should be very careful about selecting the right attorney to work on your case.