Yes. Under the Rules of the Florida Bar, an attorney serves at the will of his/her client. It is the client who makes decisions about where the case goes, not the attorney. For instance, in a personal injury case, which we at FightingForFamilies.com handle, it is the client who decides when a case is done, when a case settles, when to file suit, and whether the case gets dismissed by the claimant. For instance, at FightingForFamilies.com we do not settle cases without first consulting with the client and obtaining authorization. We do not file suit unless our client informs us that she/he wants us to do that.
So you thought you were getting this:
But now you know you are really getting this:
You thought you were getting an aggressive attorney—because that is what their billboard, or TV, or Facebook ad said, but now you actually know the claims manager is handling your case. When you call: you never speak with the attorney, you rarely even speak with the paralegal, and no one seems to know what is going on in your case. You don’t know that your case is being worked on at all or pushed toward resolution. You have decided that you have had enough of not being kept up to date and of not knowing what is going on in your case. You want to change attorneys but don’t know what are the repercussions of that.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DECIDE TO SWITCH ATTORNEYS?
First what you need to know is that the choice is yours. It is not the choice of the attorney. On personal injury cases almost every attorney works under a contingency agreement. (Check the wording in the contract you signed) A contingency agreement means the attorney takes a fee only if they make a recovery for you which you accept. If a first attorney obtains an offer for you on your authorization to negotiate for you—and you terminate that attorney–then you could owe your soon-to-be-discharged attorney “some” compensation if your case eventually is resolved by a new attorney. Would I have to pay extra to discharge my present attorney? There can be some overlap. Consider that the first attorney may have spent several thousand dollars working for you on your case, and you terminate that attorney from representing you. They may file a lien against any recovery you might make in the future on your case. This is meant to protect the costs spent by the first attorney and for any offers they obtained for you.
In practicality, most attorneys do not want to represent someone who is not happy with the attorney’s services, efforts, or results. This means that the client is not going to be happy, and therefore the attorney is likely not going to be happy at the end of the case either. It is therefore common when one attorney is discharged that this first attorney notifies the next attorney about any costs the first attorney spent for the client—and for any offers the first attorney obtained. If the second attorney obtains a recovery for the client, in prudence they will try to work out an agreement with the first attorney to amicably resolve any lien. Our mission in every transition is to make the costs and fees what they would be if the client was represented by one attorney.
WHAT IF THE ATTORNEY AND CLIENT CANNOT AGREE ON COMPENSATION?
One or both parties can ask a Court to determine how much the first attorney deserves based upon the first attorney’s expenditure of money for the client, number of hours spent on the case, any offers obtained, and the reasonable hourly rate for that first attorney. Also, the Florida Bar has a fee arbitration program if both sides agree to that program. If at the end neither side can agree, the case can be brought before a judge to determine whether a fee to the first attorney is warranted, and for how much, if anything.
FIRED FOR CAUSE
Some attorneys are fired for “cause”. “Cause” means that the attorney is not upholding the standards agreed to in the contract of representation. Or a conflict of interest has arisen. Or the attorney has taken some action which makes representation no longer workable. In other words irreconcilable differences have arisen between the attorney and the client. When an attorney is “fired for cause” it is not altogether certain that the client who fired their attorney will have to pay anything if it is determined that the firing was justified or for “cause”. This is on a case-by-case basis and not every case comes out the same. Again, in most cases, the first attorney and the second attorney try to work out something amicable so that the matter can be resolved. A client has the right to withhold consent to resolving a case unless and until the attorneys resolve any fee issues and the client knows how much he/she is going to net in their hands at the end of the case.
Ask yourself these questions:
Do I have confidence in my attorney?
Do I have confidence my present attorney is moving my case forward for me?
Do I ever get to talk with–or meet with–my attorney regarding my case?
Does it seem like the law firm workers know what is going on in my case?
Is the law firm communicating with me to keep me apprised on what is going on in my case?
Does it seem like my case has been going—in the same place—for a long time?
Is there frequent changeover of staff or attorneys handling my case?
The answer to the first 5 questions should not be “No”. No I don’t have confidence. And, the answer to the last 2 questions should not be “Yes”. Yes, it seems like my case is constantly stuck in the same place every time I call. You have the ability to change attorneys if you are not happy with your attorney. The attorney has no right to prevent you from changing attorneys—and cannot stop you from changing attorneys. You know whether you need to change attorneys.
WE ARE READY TO HELP YOU RIGHT NOW.