Possible/feasible to change lawyer midstream?

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Latest post 09-20-2013 1:23 PM by Hubbell. 6 replies.
  • 09-19-2013 5:55 PM

    • Hubbell
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    Possible/feasible to change lawyer midstream?

    I'm in the midst of a civil lawsuit (as plaintiff). It's becoming clear my attorney isn't really comfortable in the area of law the case is in and isn't willing to aggressively pursue what my experts and others have confirmed.Is it possible to change lawyers midterm (a few months before trial is scheduled)? If it's possible, is it feasible? Do things start all over or does the new lawyer just review what's been done and pick up, continue on, from there (e.g., lay depositions have been done but not expert depositions)?

    I suppose the second part to this is, or does it make more sense to bring in a second, having two attorneys from different firms, though this will add terribly to the legal fees I'm incurring (and which may not be recoverable, per my current attorney, at trial).

  • 09-19-2013 6:06 PM In reply to

    Re: Possible/feasible to change lawyer midstream?

    Yes, it is possible. The entire lawsuit does not start over. The new attorney would pick up where the previous attorney left off, and then decide from what's already been done how best to proceed. Finding an attorney willing to take over when the case is nearing trial may be tough. Many attorneys (including myself) are reluctant to step into a case started by another attorney unless they are familiar with that attorney's work and are satisfied it was likely done well. The reason is that lawyers don't want to get stuck litigating a case that someone else has already botched up, particularly if they are going to be paid on a contingent fee arrangement.

    Speaking of fees, if your fee agreement with the current attorney is a contingent fee agreement, that will complicate transferring to a new attorney as you'd need to work out how that will work and what both the old and the new attorney will get paid. Obviously you don't want, for example, both attorneys to get paid one-third of the recovery leaving you with just one-third. But how the fee gets divided may be a difficult issue to resolve to ensure that the case is attractive to the new attorney but yet also ensures you don't get stuck paying a huge fee. The attorney change may mean that you end up paying more (perhaps significantly more) in attorney's fees than you'd pay staying with your current attorney. So make sure you have a clear understanding of the fees that you will incur by changing before you commit to doing it.

  • 09-19-2013 6:07 PM In reply to

    • Kivi
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    Re: Possible/feasible to change lawyer midstream?

    Yes, it is possible, but you will owe your current attorney for work that he or she did. In other words, the current attorney likely will have some kind of lien on your settlement or awad after trial. This not only might be expensive, it probably will be expensive, even if both attorneys were working on a contingency fee basis..

     A new attorney also is going to have to spend some time "getting up to speed" on your case and, if a trial date is in the near future, he or she may need to request a continuance, which means even more delay.. Much would depend upon how complicated your case is.. (Let's just say, at least superficially, your case LOOKS complicated.)  I suspect that you are underestimating the amount of paperwork that may already exist on your case AND the amount of time that any new attorney might need to review what has been done to date.

    Think long and hard before you leap.

     

     

  • 09-19-2013 7:09 PM In reply to

    • Hubbell
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    Re: Possible/feasible to change lawyer midstream?

    To Taxagent and Kivi--no issues re contingency or payment as I've been paying monthly bills. My big concern is of course the cost for the second to come up to speed. Of course the payment arrangement if I do bring a new (second or replacement) attorney on board would have to be agreed to and is now unknown.

    Taxagent:

    Yes, it is possible. The entire lawsuit does not start over. The new attorney would pick up where the previous attorney left off, and then decide from what's already been done how best to proceed. Finding an attorney willing to take over when the case is nearing trial may be tough. Many attorneys (including myself) are reluctant to step into a case started by another attorney unless they are familiar with that attorney's work and are satisfied it was likely done well. The reason is that lawyers don't want to get stuck litigating a case that someone else has already botched up, particularly if they are going to be paid on a contingent fee arrangement.

    Speaking of fees, if your fee agreement with the current attorney is a contingent fee agreement, that will complicate transferring to a new attorney as you'd need to work out how that will work and what both the old and the new attorney will get paid. Obviously you don't want, for example, both attorneys to get paid one-third of the recovery leaving you with just one-third. But how the fee gets divided may be a difficult issue to resolve to ensure that the case is attractive to the new attorney but yet also ensures you don't get stuck paying a huge fee. The attorney change may mean that you end up paying more (perhaps significantly more) in attorney's fees than you'd pay staying with your current attorney. So make sure you have a clear understanding of the fees that you will incur by changing before you commit to doing it.

     

  • 09-20-2013 1:29 AM In reply to

    Re: Possible/feasible to change lawyer midstream?

    Is this the case that you are referring to?

    http://community.lawyers.com/forums/t/116834.aspx

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 09-20-2013 11:39 AM In reply to

    Re: Possible/feasible to change lawyer midstream?

    Hubbell:
    Is it possible to change lawyers midterm (a few months before trial is scheduled)? If it's possible, is it feasible?

    "Possible" and "feasible" are synonyms, so I'm not sure what the second question means.  Yes, it's possible/feasible.

     

    Hubbell:
    Do things start all over or does the new lawyer just review what's been done and pick up, continue on, from there (e.g., lay depositions have been done but not expert depositions)?

    No, things do not start all over.  Under certain circumstances, a new lawyer may be able to get a few things continued to allow him/her to become familiar with the case.  Otherwise, the new lawyer jumps in right where the former lawyer left off.

     

    Hubbell:
    does it make more sense to bring in a second, having two attorneys from different firms

    Only one familiar with the case can comment intelligently on this.  It may be that bringing in a new lawyer and completely ditching the current lawyer won't be practical because of the complexity of the case.  If you keep your current lawyer and simply add a new lawyer, you need to have clear discussions with your counsel about this and about your clear expectations in terms of no duplication of work.

  • 09-20-2013 1:23 PM In reply to

    • Hubbell
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    Re: Possible/feasible to change lawyer midstream?

    Adjuster Jack, NO, it is not.

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