Can I Fire My Lawyer If I signed My Contract With Them?

Are you wondering if it’s legal to fire your lawyer after signing a contract with them?

In this article, I answer why little or no consequences can happen to you after firing your lawyer immediately or even months after signing the contract hiring them.

Additionally, I provide helpful tips that make the firing process less financially draining.

Must I sign a contract to hire a lawyer?

An image describing why you should sign a contract with your lawyer

No, one does not need to sign a contract to hire the services of a lawyer.

However, under American Bar Association (ABA) rules, if you are paying your lawyer through a contingency fee then you must have a contract in writing.

In addition, some states such as Georgia require one to sign a contract with a lawyer when they want to hire them. Hence all attorney-client representations begin immediately after a contract is signed by both parties.

Even though it is not mandatory to sign a contract hiring your lawyer, it is advisable to do so.

An attorney-client contract (fee agreement) helps to secure your legal partnership.

No matter how well you know your attorney or how simple your case appears, having a written agreement clarifies details such as the responsibilities and attorney fees.

When signing a contract with your lawyer, it is important to read and understand the terms of the contract.

Notably, one should check the fine print regarding attorney fees. Some lawyers will charge upfront fees, some will charge a retainer while some of them will charge a contingency fee.

In most personal injury cases, lawyers will usually demand a contingency fee. Thus, they will put a contractual clause requiring you to pay them a percentage of your settlement from the insurance company.

Some contracts especially those that are between a client and a personal injury lawyer will stipulate that the lawyer will be paid on the highest offer that has been made by the insurance company or the opposing party at the time that the law firm is fired.

For this reason, most clients feel tied up to this contract clause. Therefore, out of ignorance, they will choose to stick with a lawyer, even though dissatisfied with their services.

Can I Fire My Lawyer if I signed my contract?

An image describing if one can fire their lawyer after they have signed a contract with them

Yes, you can fire your lawyer even before they complete their contract.

In almost all states, lawyers cannot use a contract to tie up their clients.

Conversely, clients should not put up with bad services from their lawyers just because they have a signed contract.

Therefore, any time you as a client feel dissatisfied with the lawyer you have hired and signed a contract, it is legal to fire them.

In some states such as Florida, firing a lawyer after signing a contract is legal.

The Florida Bar requires personal injury client-attorney contracts to provide a 3-day grace period where the client can cancel the contract for any reason. In addition, a client cannot be compelled to pay their lawyer if the office of the lawyer has not engaged in substantial action or expense on the client’s behalf. Hence, canceling a contract has no financial consequence.

Cons of firing your lawyer during trial?

In this section, I advise on the possible consequences of firing your lawyer during trial. The consequences are:

  • A new attorney may take time to become conversant with the case details.

Consequently, a likelihood that they miss certain deadlines is possible. For example, they may miss the deadlines to appeal a ruling.

  • One will end up paying more legal fees since they will have to pay the new attorney as well as the fired attorney.

In certain cases, a client and the lawyer that they decided to fire during trial may have had a contract stipulating payment based on a contingency fee.

This issue may give rise to fee disputes that may end up being decided by a judge.

Therefore, one might end up wasting time or spending money (at worst both).

  • If you’ve already switched lawyers, changing so again may hurt your case.

Multiple lawyer switches make you and your case seem suspicious in court.

Conclusion

It is legal to fire your lawyer after you have signed a contract hiring them to take your case.

The reasons for firing the lawyer may be personal or professionally induced. It matters not.

However, before signing a contract with a lawyer, one needs to read the contents of the contract.

Take care to peruse the contract so that you see if the terms require the lawyer to be paid based on a contingency fee, retainer, or upfront fee.

In most cases, a contract will stipulate the amount that a lawyer will charge when they are fired. This is called “quantum meruit.” Quantum meruit is a Latin legal term that means “payment is measured by the value of services provided.”