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What Happens if I Don’t Like My Attorney and Fire Him – Can He Charge a Fee and Does It Cost Me More Money?

Posted on June 3, 2021 in

You can always change lawyers.  If you do not trust your lawyer, do not like your lawyer or just want to, you can fire an attorney.  This is true for workers’ compensation claims and every other legal matter.

Fees and Possible Problems When You Change Attorneys

If you fire your workers’ compensation lawyer, he can claim a fee, but he cannot send you a bill.  The fired lawyer files a claim against your workers’ compensation claim which is called a fee lien.  The fee lien will typically be paid from any settlement that you get.

Firing a lawyer does not increase the total attorney fees that will be paid from the case.  You will never pay more than 25% for attorney fees.  Whether you have had 1 lawyer or 10 lawyers, the attorney fee on your settlement will not be more than 25%.

Although firing the attorney does not increase what you pay, it means that the attorney you hire will be facing a fight to get any part of the fee claimed by your last lawyer.  Your new lawyer will be earning less on the case than if you had not had a previous attorney.

Let’s use an example:

Suppose you hire the first lawyer, and that lawyer tries to get you to settle your case for $40,000.00.  You ask around and find out the case is probably worth $75,000.00.  You talk with your first lawyer, and he says that you can’t get more than $40,000.00 and tells you to settle.  You call some other lawyers, and they seem to agree that the $40,000.00 is too low.  Now you don’t want your lawyer anymore and you want to change.

Most workers’ compensation contracts provide two ways to set the lawyer’s fee if the lawyer is fired.  For any offer, the attorney gets 25% but if there is no offer, the attorney claims a number of hours and an hourly rate.  For our example, the first lawyer’s contract has a fee of 25% of the offer.

You decide to fire your first lawyer.  You send him an email or a letter and say quit working on my case.  He will then file a lien saying that his work was worth 25% of the $40,000.00 offer or $10,000.00.

When you hire the next lawyer, there are several new problems that will now be in the case.

  1. If your first lawyer has told the insurance company that he thinks you should take $40,000.00 then the insurance company will resist paying more even if it knows the case is worth $75,000.00. A problem, but a good attorney can get around it.
  2. You must pick the next lawyer. If you have not looked around to find someone you like, and just guess you may have the same problems that you had with the first lawyer.  So, if you want to change lawyers, better to shop around.
  3. The next lawyer has the first lawyer in his pocket on the fee. If the new lawyer gets the insurance company to pay $75,000.00, the 25% fee is $18,750.00 but the first lawyer wants $10,000.00 which is most of the fee. The more work the second lawyer puts into the case, the less he is getting per hour spent. This can sometimes make the second lawyer less enthusiastic about your case.

In summary, it is always better to keep the first lawyer that you hire.  Mind the saying:  Measure twice and cut once.  However, whether the first lawyer will work out is not guaranteed even when you do a lot of research.  If you feel like you need to change lawyers, it is better to change before the insurance company has made an offer.  It is better to change sooner rather than later when you know you should change.

If you feel like you need to change lawyers, do not just guess.  Call up some lawyers and ask them for a confidential consultation.  Tell the lawyers your concerns and what you would like to get out of the case.  If what you want is not realistic, you need to know.  If what you want is realistic but not for your present lawyer, you will need to change.

Before you change attorneys, you should make sure that you have told your next possible attorney both the good and the bad about your case.  He will already be looking at working for a lower fee, so it is better that he knows everything he can about your case.  This avoids any future conversation that could start with:  If you had told me — .

Hilley & Frieder Can Help

Hilley & Frieder will have a confidential consultation with you should you be thinking about changing attorneys.  We can be reached through our contact form or 404 233-6200.

Hilley & Frieder can handle all aspects of you case virtually from interview through conclusion. We are open and available to help you. Please view our complete COVID-19 statement to learn more about the steps we are taking to ensure that your case continues to move smoothly in this environment.