How to Switch Lawyers During a Pittsburgh Case

Choosing the right lawyer to handle your case is always an important decision. Not only should your lawyer have the experience and skills necessary to handle your unique needs, but their communication and personality are also essential. Catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are deeply personal matters.  It is critical that you have not only a competent lawyer but one who you connect and feel comfortable with. Many people find that they have hired the wrong attorney only after their lawsuit has already begun. Thankfully, other options exist, and you, the client, always have the right to be represented by the lawyer of your choosing; never need to remain with your lawyer if your attorney/client relationship has soured.  You can fire your lawyer and hire a new lawyer at any time during your case.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s rules of professional conduct state that a client may cease working with an attorney at any time and for any reason. This means that as soon as you feel uncomfortable with the arrangement or want to work with another qualified attorney, you have the absolute right to do so. If you have determined that you no longer want to work with your existing attorney, you should notify them immediately, so your lawyer can take the necessary steps to withdraw. At the same time, you need to find another lawyer to represent you and substitute for your prior attorney.  This guide aims to provide further information about how to switch lawyers during a Pittsburgh personal injury or medical malpractice case.

Why Switching Lawyers May be the Right Decision

Selecting a lawyer to handle one’s legal needs is a personal decision. The lawyer in question should possess the knowledge, abilities, and resources needed to appropriately pursue your personal injury case. The attorney and their staff should be appropriately trained and communicative. Unfortunately, a lawyer or law firm that seemed to be the perfect fit at the beginning of your case may turn out to be anything but.  Circumstances may arise that necessitate a change.

Common reasons for choosing to switch lawyers or law firms in Pittsburgh include:

  • A lack of proper communication
  • Unhappiness with a case’s progress
  • Billing discrepancies
  • Disagreements concerning case strategy
  • Concern about the lawyer’s abilities or commitment to your case
  • Concern about the lawyer’s financial resources to properly fund the case and pay for the necessary experts

Any reason for wanting to change lawyers is appropriate in the eyes of the law. Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct § 1.16 states that a lawyer must cease representing a client upon receipt of a discharge from that client. The rule does not place any caveats upon this request, and the reasons for a discharge can be personal to the client. In sum, a client’s specific feelings about a case or a lawyer’s representation are all the justification they need to make a change. It does not matter if you signed a contract of representation with your lawyer – the client is always permitted to terminate their legal representation and get new legal counsel.

Notwithstanding the reasons you may be unhappy with your lawyer’s representation, we recommend clients to think long and hard about whether terminating their lawyer is the best decision.  Firing your attorney is not a decision you want to make hastily.  It may be that you simply need to have a “heart to heart” with your attorney and explain to them what is bothering you.  An attempt to re-open the lines of communication is often all it takes to repair what seemed like an irreparably harmed relationship.

What to Expect When Switching Lawyers in Pittsburgh

Just as the Commonwealth’s rules for attorney conduct determine how a lawyer must act when representing a client, they also dictate how an attorney must proceed if a client wishes to end the relationship. In the same rule cited above, a lawyer must inform all relevant courts or other legal bodies about the change of representation. In addition, they must take all reasonable steps to protect the legal rights of their soon-to-be-former clients. This means the prior lawyer must turn over their entire file and records to the new law firm and not do anything to hurt the client’s case.

How to Fire Your Lawyer

If you decide to fire your lawyer, you should, at a minimum, do in writing via letter or email.  It is important to make it clear that you wish to terminate your attorney/client relationship immediately.  Though you do not need to provide a reason for the termination, it is generally a good idea to provide a brief explanation for your decision.  Next, you should provide the lawyer instructions for where they should send your file.

Though the circumstances leading up to your decision to fire your lawyer may be upsetting, we recommend that you keep things professional and courteous.  You should avoid threatening a lawsuit or making a claim with the disciplinary board as this may entice your lawyer to make the transition process more difficult.  If problems do arise and your prior lawyer is less than cooperative you should let your new lawyer handle the remaining communications necessary to complete the termination and transition process.

Most lawyers are professional and care about you and your representation.  In our experience, most lawyers who are terminated are upset by what went wrong and want to help the client move forward in a fashion most beneficial to the client.

Another fact to keep in mind is that your prior lawyer may have a right to be reimbursed any costs they forwarded on behalf of your case.  In some instances, your prior lawyer will make a claim for quantum meruit, which is the reasonable sum of money to be paid for services rendered or work done up to the date of termination.

Additionally, if a settlement offer has been made before your fire your attorney, your prior lawyer may have a claim for their agreed-on contingency fee percentage of that settlement sum.  For example, imagine that during your personal injury claim, the defendant offers you $50,000 to settle.  If you had signed a 40% contingency agreement with your prior lawyer, and you fire them before accepting or after rejecting the offer of settlement, your prior lawyer may have a claim for $20,000 from any future settlement (40% of the $50,000 offer).  Practically speaking, however, your subsequent lawyer usually works out a more equitable arrangement with your prior lawyer.

Consult a Pittsburgh Attorney about How to Switch Lawyers during a Case

Many people find that their current lawyers are no longer serving their needs. This may be due to a lack of communication or a genuine disagreement as to how to proceed in the case. Regardless of your reasons, you have the right to discharge your lawyer at any time. When you do this, your attorney must take all reasonable steps to protect your rights and allow you to find new representation immediately.

If you are dissatisfied with your current lawyer or law firm, feel free to contact Lupetin & Unatin, LLC, to learn more about your options.  Our team will help you to obtain more information about switching lawyers. While we cannot provide legal assistance concerning your case if you still have representation, we can inform you as to your rights to seek out new legal help. If we cannot serve as your new lawyers, we may be able to help you find the right firm for your needs.  Please feel free to contact our law offices to learn more about your options.