How To Fire a Lawyer in Texas
Clients wondering how to fire a lawyer in Texas should also consider whether their attorney’s behavior amounts to legal malpractice. Tensions can run high in attorney-client relationships. Disagreements on strategy, perceived lack of commitment, apathy towards a case, infrequent communication — there are a number of reasons for firing your attorney. All of these examples are frequent and extreme annoyances, but in certain cases, they can also give rise to a lawsuit for malpractice.
Sears Crawford’s legal malpractice attorneys in Houston have been suing lawyers for over 30 years, and are here to tell you when and how to fire a lawyer in Texas — as well as when you should think about suing a negligent one.
What is it called when a lawyer doesn’t do their job?
Before we talk about how to fire your lawyer, we should discuss the differences between a bad attorney and a negligent one. In order to prove that your lawyer was negligent, three things must be proved:
- There was a duty owed. Meaning they were in fact, your attorney.
- That duty was breached. The attorney did not act with your best interests in mind, and their action or inaction was not in keeping with the way a reasonable attorney would have acted under similar circumstances.
- The breach of duty caused harm to the client. They did something that caused your case to have an outcome that was worse for you than it would have been had they properly handled the case.
So, can you sue an attorney for not doing their job? Absolutely! If they have breached their duty to you and caused you harm, then you should absolutely seek counsel on suing your former attorney. But first, you need to get them out of your life, at least on a working level.
Can you fire a lawyer in Texas?
First things first, you can always fire your lawyer if you are unhappy with their services. If your attorney is an “hourly attorney” (you are paying them by the hour) then you can terminate them at any time for any reason and replace them with another attorney.
However, just because you can fire your lawyer, doesn’t mean that you always should. Ever wonder what happens if you fire your lawyer during trial without another one to take their place? Even if the court does let you hire a new attorney, they’ll be left cleaning up someone else’s mess, and this can put your case at a disadvantage. You should only fire your lawyer if you’re sure that you have time to replace them with another attorney and terminating them will not harm your case.
If your attorney is working under a “contingency fee” agreement (they get paid a percentage of your recovery) then you must be careful how and why you terminate them. You can still fire the attorney at any time for any reason, but if they are not terminated for “cause” then you may still owe them the entirety of their contingency fee, and when you hire your new attorney, you may now owe 2 attorneys. A “for cause” termination is one in which you have good reason to terminate your attorney, like:
- Neglecting your case
- Not communicating with you
- Doing things that delay or harm your case
- Not looking out for your best interests
Keep in mind that often when you terminate a contingency fee attorney early in the case, or after they have done any reasonable work on your case, then they will typically send you a letter or notify the court and opposing counsel that they are maintaining an interest in your case. You do not want to pay two attorneys a 30% to 40% (or more) fee, especially if you are only recovering 20% of your case value. Address these things with your old attorney and your new attorney to make sure everyone is on the same page and that your interests are being protected.
If you do have an attorney that needs firing, you don’t want to wait too long. In the event that you know that your attorney is operating in bad faith, or just making mistakes that they shouldn’t, you should consult another lawyer before it is too late.
When is it too late to fire your attorney?
If you are stuck with a bad attorney who has already messed up your case, it might be too late.
If your lawyer committed malpractice and lost your case because of it, the only way to seek justice is to sue your lawyer before the statute of limitations has expired. In Texas, the legal malpractice statute of limitations is most often two years from the date of discovery of legal malpractice, not two years from when you decide to sue them. Therefore, the moment that you notice something is wrong, you should pick up the phone and call a legal malpractice expert, like Ross Sears II at Sears Crawford, who has been helping legal malpractice clients for over 30 years.
Reasons for firing your attorney
Some of the more common types of attorney malpractice include:
- Fraud: any act of deception for unlawful gain
- Failure to know or apply the law: broad incompetence due to taking on a case outside of their expertise
- Failure to obtain client consent: settling a case or taking any action in the case that was not approved by the client
- Breach of fiduciary duty: breaches of trust or confidentiality, misrepresentation of facts, misleading communications, conflicts of interest
- Failure to calendar: missed deadlines
- Unconscionable fees and overbilling: overcharging or misuse of client funds
At Sears Crawford, we sue lawyers to protect our clients. If you believe that your lawyer has committed any of the infractions described above, give us a call and start the process of getting what you deserve.
How do I fire my lawyer?
How do you do it? Firing your lawyer is often a four-step process.
- Sleep on it. You need to make sure that you’re making the right decision, and that terminating your lawyer at this stage in your case, will not leave you in a worse position than you are currently in.
- Have a new lawyer ready. You should have a succession plan in place. Talk to other attorneys to see if they will agree to take the case, if you were to fire your current attorney.
- Notify your attorney (preferably in writing) that you wish to part ways. Let your attorney know that you no longer want to use their services. If you are firing them “for cause” then put in writing the reasons you are terminating them and let them know that you consider it to be “for good cause.” Let them know who your new attorney will be, and ask them to transfer the entirety of your case file to your new attorney.
- Sue them for legal malpractice.
If your new attorney cannot obtain a full recovery for you in your case because of something your terminated attorney did to harm the case, then you may have a malpractice case. If you or your new attorney believe that your former attorney did something to harm your case and prevent you from obtaining the outcome you should have obtained, then call Ross Sears II at Sears Crawford to discuss your possible legal rights against your former attorney.
Sears Crawford knows how to fire a lawyer in Texas — and how to sue a negligent one
You should know not only when and how to fire a lawyer in Texas, but when to sue them as well. Ross Sears II, co-founding attorney of Sears Crawford, is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law, the legal specialization encompassing Legal Malpractice, and has been suing bad lawyers for over 30 years. If your lawyer committed errors that harmed or reduced the value of your case, the lawyers at Sears Crawford can help you build a strong case against them.
Firing your lawyer is often only step one in the process. Take the next step by giving us a call today at (713) 223-3333 or contacting us online for a free consultation.
More Helpful Articles by Sears Crawford: