How to Terminate an Attorney Client Contract
In most instances, clients are free to terminate their relationship with their attorney. When attempting to fire your attorney through termination of your attorney-client contract, you will need to carefully consider the current status of your case and the potential outcomes following termination. Before you begin the termination process acquire a copy of your attorney-client agreement as it may dictate specific terms related to termination of the relationship. If you are not currently involved in litigation or an ongoing dispute, you are free to terminate your attorney client agreement at any time. Check to see if your initial retainer is refundable before contacting your attorney as termination of the agreement could result in forfeiture of your retainer.
When assessing whether to terminate an attorney client contract you should pay close attention to whether your contract is based on a contingent agreement or an hourly billing agreement. Hourly billing contracts state that the lawyer is entitled to a certain rate for every hour he works on your case. Contingency agreements compensate an attorney based on a fixed percentage of the total outcome of the case.
When terminating an attorney client agreement based on hourly compensation, you should immediately request an accounting of all of the attorney's time on the case and request that the attorney halt all current work on the case. You will be required to compensate your attorney for all time that has already been spent on the case. If you've paid a retainer, be sure to check your attorney-client agreement to determine if the retainer is refundable.
If you've hired your attorney on a contingent basis, you may have a more difficult time finding new representation. If your attorney has already spent significant time on your case, she may be able to claim a lien against your case entitling her to a large percentage of the potential outcome. This lien may deter a new lawyer from accepting your case. When attempting to terminate an attorney client agreement based on a contingency, you should contact your new attorney to see if she can negotiate an amicable case transfer.
Firing your attorney is not always the best decision as it can take a considerable amount of time for a new attorney to get up to speed on your case. This work by the new attorney may result in additional legal fees. Finally, if you do terminate your attorney-client contract, be sure to request that your previous attorney send you a copy of your case file for your records.