Can You Change Your Law Firm?
Mesh Medical Device News Desk, September 26, 2017 reposted from May 15, 2017 ~ Can you change law firms if you are unhappy with your representation? Get your retainer agreement out and look at the fine print is a first place to start.
This article is being reposted because so many of you call MND and complain about your law firm and the lackluster settlement dollars being offered to mesh injured plaintiffs.
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?
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.
LEGAL REFERRAL SERVICES
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.
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.
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.