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How to Change Your Lawyer

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on June 28, 2012 10:04 AM

You've hired a lawyer -- but now you've had a disagreement, or perhaps just buyer's remorse. So when are you allowed to change your lawyer, and how do you do that?

As a client, you generally have the right to get rid of your lawyer for any reason, at any time before your case is over. All you have to do is follow the procedure set by the court where your case is being heard.

Each court is different, but here are some general steps a client must take to fire her lawyer -- and what the lawyer must do after she's been let go:

Firing or Changing Your Lawyer

A client is generally free to fire and change her lawyer, but must provide written notice of the change to the court and the opposing party. Until proper notice is given, a client must generally stick with her current lawyer.

Courts typically provide a standard form, such as this one used in California, for changing your attorney. The form usually requires the names and signatures of your current and incoming counsel, and must be served on all parties in your matter.

Your Fired Lawyer's Continuing Duties

When a client fires her attorney, a state's rules of attorney conduct generally require the attorney to forward all of the client's legal files and property in a timely manner. The fired attorney may also be prohibited from directly contacting the ex-client to try to get her to switch back.

Ethics rules also generally impose continuing duties on a fired lawyer, such as:

  • Protecting the ex-client's confidential information, even after the representation ends;
  • Not using information gained during the representation to take unfair advantage of the ex-client; and
  • Getting court permission to extend deadlines in the ex-client's case that may be affected by the new representation.

Once you've decided to change lawyers, what next? Check out FindLaw's Guide to Hiring a Lawyer for advice on how to choose a new lawyer, and browse our local lawyer directory to find attorneys near you.

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