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Can You Change Your Law Firm?

From whistleblower law

Mesh Medical Device News Desk, May 15, 2017 ~ Can you change law firms if you are unhappy with your representation? Get your retainer agreement and look at the fine print is a first place to start. 

When you research whether you can leave your law firm, most references are for attorneys. At least once in a career, a lawyer may want to change firms.

But what if you, the client, are not happy with your representation and want to shop for another law firm to take your case?

Is that allowed?

Federal courthouse, Charleston, WV


In an ideal world, you and your law firm form a “team” based on mutual trust and respect. That means you must provide the law firm with the information it asks for and stay in touch if you move. You must always be reachable.

In turn, the law firm should be able to answer your questions and have someone appointed to be your liaison. This should be a paralegal, or someone familiar with the law. 

Check out the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct here.

Your law firm must provide you with your case number and where your case is filed so you can look it up and verify that it actually has been filed.

You editor is hearing lately of cases that were never filed with the court, instead, they were prepared for settlement. What sort of message does that send to the defense side?  A case worked for trial indicates resources were put into the merits of the case, one that counsel was prepared to present to a jury. As readers know, those  have resulted in multi-million dollar verdicts, with very few exceptions.



Is your case with a trial lawyer?  Many 800 #’s led the unsuspecting injured plaintiff to a legal referral center that sells or “refers” your case to another firm for a set amount or percentage.

Since one has to be a lawyer to head a legal referral service, you may think you signed up with a law firm (and you did) but they may have had no intention of keeping the case.  Unless you know that, you may waste previous time asking the referral service for an update on your case.

Some plaintiffs were promised theirs was a “million dollar case” when they signed up. That is a red flag. No one knows the value of a case.

Mesh News Desk has heard from plaintiffs who only find out years later that the initial referral firm no longer has their case.

This is a formula for disaster.

No communication can mean that cases fall by the wayside and the plaintiff forgets about it and goes on with their life. That’s what happened in the recent story Women Who Are Missing, who had their cases dismissed by the court when both sides failed to communicate with each other.

Is changing law firms even allowed?   Remember – Your case belongs to you.

WikiCommons, Scott Steiner

Read the fine print of your firm’s retainer agreement. That may contain language that will guide you if you are not happy with your current representation.

If the law firm wants to end the relationship, the replaced lawyer will file a notice of withdrawal with the court.  They must return your original files and papers and property and refund any unused retainer.

Make sure you do not get into a battle over paying them before your files are turned over to the next firm.

Jury in Huskey trial, Akre

The American Bar Association’s Model Rule 1.16(d) (here) says your firm must surrender papers and property as soon as the representation is terminated.  There may be a similar rule in your state bar association

If the firm is owed fees, it will file a lien on whatever award you eventually receive from either a jury award or a settlement.

Make sure the fees and costs are “reasonable” and not excessive. Ask for an invoice with details on the expenditure in your case.

If you never receive anything in a settlement, do you still owe that law firm something?   It’s in the fine print.

Give careful thought to firing your attorney.  Are you on the eve of trial?  Has the firm communicated with you but your real frustration is with the industry you are suing? What are you expectations and are they realistic?

That is the million dollar question when it comes to mesh litigation because the dollars being offered by the mesh industry do not consider a lifetime of pain and medical care, loss of consortium, lost wages, medical care mesh-related but that are not revisions, pain and suffering.

So what is realistic?

As yourself, is this firm acting in a professional manner and do they still have your trust?

A sit down meeting to air your grievances may answer your questions. ###


From Martindale-Hubbell, How to fire your attorney here.


  1. Annonymous K says:

    Great article Jane! I was just recently fired by my law firm for not taking the settlement and yes my mistake was talking to a 1-800 number! Thanks for all that you do for us and being our voice!

  2. Mari says:

    My attorney has failed me on 3 counts and he knows it. 1) I was put in TIer 1 (never told until at a mandated settlement hearing) even the defense agreed I shouldn’t be there as my case was significant. (I’m now told in the highest tier). Also, he knows we overheard him telling the defense attorney that his clients (myself and one other were there) were “problem clients” and made rude comments about the clients son “not being smart enough to get anything”. Pretty sure he has never even read my surgical files. He made me fly out (at our expense) to that settlement hearing. Now he wants to dispose my doctor. I do t even want to settle ever so he keeps saying – maybe you should get another attorney.
    I feel this is another slice from my gut! I don’t have the energy or knowhow to find a better firm. I really want one based in CA that doesn’t just refer the case out. Any suggestions? What would you do Jane?

    • Jane Akre says:

      It’s difficult to say. There are so many factors. The money will never be enough, even millions are not worth your health. Part of the equation is how much you need the funds? Your lawyer sounds like a very rude individual. If you are in a higher tier and have multiple revisions, perhaps you should get another attorney. Sounds like he may be bluffing.

      • Dian says:

        Jane ,I received my mesh offer and I do not want to accept it. Amount unbelievable! Do you know if I can find another lawyer?

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