Can You Fire a Lawyer Before Settlement? Explained

In most cases, you can end your attorney’s services as a client at will.

This right, outlined in your agreement, isn’t tied to specific reasons.

Likewise, your attorney can stop representing you as needed.

So, you can dismiss your attorney when you see fit.

Firing your attorney before settlement
Can You Fire a Lawyer Before Settlement?: Photo source (

Yet, switching attorneys can be tough, especially before a scheduled trial.

Doing so could harm your case.

During an ongoing case, your attorney might need court approval to withdraw.

If the court denies this, you and your attorney could remain connected despite wanting to separate.

Changing Attorneys Around Settlement Time

In contingent cases (like accidents or falls), attorneys take a significant share of the case proceeds.

Initially, the percentage (e.g., 30%) seems minor, but it’s substantial for six-figure settlements.

Paying such a sizable fee is hard to accept. Clients might assume they can regain the 30% by firing the attorney before settlement. However, this often fails.

Usually, the contingency agreement says attorneys only get paid upon recovery. Yet, it likely adds:

If the agreement ends pre-settlement, you must pay fees based on hourly rates for work done.

The agreement may also require covering costs beyond legal fees.

So, if you’re ending to boost your payout, results vary. Larger settlements might benefit you, but smaller ones could leave you worse off.

Potential Drawback to Firing Your Lawyer Before Settlement: On Your Own Without Knowledge

As a former lawyer handling contingent cases, our aim was to simplify the legal process for clients. Countless unseen hours of work were invested.

Even after agreeing on a settlement, it’s unwise for clients to think all is done and handle matters alone. Attorneys provide crucial help during and after settlements.

Consider injury cases with medical bills; clients often overlook providers’ liens on recovery.

These providers expect repayment, typically by law. If the lawyers and client fail to confirm amounts and make payments, the client could face a third-party lawsuit.

Clients without legal counsel during settlements are also vulnerable to insurance companies or their lawyers.

Paperwork is extensive, sometimes containing alarming language inserted by defense counsel.

This could include defamatory statements or admitting the defendant was right.

Misinterpreting what’s signed could harm clients publicly. Defendants might expose payment details, portraying the plaintiff as dishonest in the media.

If The Case Is Close To Trial

Firing a lawyer is all about timing if you want the transition to be smooth.

If the reason for firing your lawyer is that you just want someone else to help, then its best to make the transition well in advance of settlement talks.

Your new counsel will need plenty of time to get up to speed to adequately assist you.

If you want to get a new lawyer right before trial, and you have your new lawyer lined up and ready to go, be prepared for the court to deny your request.

New lawyers usually means postponements, which also means time wasted and money wasted on the side of the court.

Judges don’t like it, especially if the jury has already been called.

Trading right before trial can be pretty difficult, unless the lawyer you are hiring is extremely experienced and the case is simple enough to get up to speed quickly.

How To Fire A Lawyer Before Settlement?

It is not difficult to terminate your attorney.

You can terminate him in writing, over the phone, or in person.

While it is not necessary, it is a good idea to have a written confirmation of what you said and to who, and when it was said.

Firing your attorney before settlement
Firing your attorney: Photo courtesy (

This way no one can argue that they didn’t know or understand your wishes.

You don’t have to explain why, though your legal team might ask.

Don’t be surprised if the attorney reminds you that you still owe him money, and then also takes steps to secure his lien against the proceeds of the settlement/case.

What If You Don’t Want To Pay Your Old Lawyer?

You’ll have to have a pretty good reason to avoid paying your old lawyer.

And not just because of unreturned phone calls or concerns.

You’ll need evidence of something pretty significant that you can use to persuade him to forgo recovery of his fees.

The “something” might need to rise to the legal of legal negligence or legal malpractice.

And if either of those things occurred, then you might want to contact the state bar and file a report to have the matter investigated.

Without something significant, your former attorney can and will pursue you for recovery of his fees.

And lawyers do know a lot about enforcing contracts and recovering fees.