The first thing you need to know is that, in Florida, you are absolutely entitled to have the lawyer of your choosing to handle your personal injury case. However, unfortunately, there are often financial considerations that may limit your choices if you have already had a lawyer handling your case.
My first advice is always to make sure that you cannot repair your relationship with your lawyer. Many times an attorney-client relationship can be salvaged by having a face-to-face meeting and airing any complaints or grievances. If the relationship cannot be salvaged, then the attorney-client relationship should be ended as professionally as possible.
Taking the following steps will help ensure the protection of your case:
1. Review your Statement of Client’s Rights, Contract or Written Agreement setting forth any terms about how the attorney-client relationship must be terminated.
2. Determine whether you are terminating your lawyer “for cause”. An attorney can really be fired for any reason — however, you may be on the hook for attorneys’ fees and costs if you intend to fire your lawyer without good cause. For example, an attorney can be terminated for cause is he has a conflict of interest or has done something illegal or unethical, or if he is incompetent to handle your case. Firing your attorney just because you don’t like him or the way that he dresses would probably be considered termination without cause.
3. Always terminate your lawyer in writing, and preferably by certified mail (return receipt requested.) You don’t want there to be any question about what your intentions were.
4. Request a full and complete copy of your file (and be prepared to pay copy charges.)
5. Hire a new lawyer as soon as possible. Many defendants see a change of lawyer as a sign of weakness or instability and will seek to rush a case to trial if they can.
6. Request an itemized billing of all fees or expenses that the terminated lawyer is claiming he is owed.