If you decide to fire your current lawyer, that lawyer has the right to file a “lien” against your settlement for services rendered. In theory, if you and your current lawyer objected to that lien, a State Board of Workers’ Compensation judge would have to decide how much your old lawyer should be paid. In practice, if I ever take on representation of a client who has terminated his lawyer, I will call the old lawyer and try to work out a reasonable split of the attorney’s fees that arise from any settlement.
Here’s one other important point to consider – Georgia State Board rules permit a workers’ compensation lawyer to charge not only 25% of any settlement, but 25% of weekly wage benefits. In other words, a lawyer can structure his fee agreement whereby he gets one of your weekly wage checks.
I have never included this provision in my fee agreement – in my view 25% of a case settlement is a fair fee – I have yet to encounter a case where I felt the need to take one of my client’s weekly wage checks.
If the fee agreement you entered into with your old lawyer did include a provision whereby you agreed to pay the lawyer one of your weekly wage benefit checks, terminating that lawyer will not necessarily vacate that provision, especially if the wage benefits became payable as a result of your old lawyer’s efforts.
This is just another reason why you should move very carefully if you are thinking about changing your counsel. If your old lawyer has expended months or years working on your case and can point to concrete results, that lawyer may have a valid claim for most of the fees on your case and you may very well have a difficult time finding replacement counsel to step in at the end of your case.