If you already have an attorney, then you should get your advice from that attorney. It is okay to get information from this website, but this is not legal advice. Only your attorney can give you legal advice.
The Why of Attorney/Client Problems
Clients and attorneys have problems for many reasons. Here are a few reasons why:
- the case ends up with bad results and nobody is happy.
- the attorney seems to be not working hard enough
- the client expects too much
- the attorney doesn’t listen to what the client says
- the client doesn’t listen to what the attorney says
- the attorney doesn’t take the time to clearly explain what is going on
- the client won’t do their fair share
- the attorney is too busy or otherwise unavailable
- the possibilities are endless
Why won’t my attorney or paralegal call me back?
I can’t speak for them, but they have their reasons. I will say this:
- Often they won’t call you because of the amount of time it takes to connect, listen, empathize, chat, and answer.
- Sometimes it is best to put your questions into an e-mail. This can save a lot of time and it cuts to the chase.
- An email makes it easier for you stick to the substance of the issue, and then allows them to answer once and be done. Try it – it might work.
What to do if you are having problems with your attorney:
- Work it out
- Put up with it
- Replace the attorney
Before you do anything rushed, do this two step analysis to help find the problem:
- First, look carefully at your situation and your personality type. Are you the type of person that has problems with lots of people? Do you have problems with your doctor? Your claims manager? Your spouse? Do you have a problem with authority figures? Do you have unrealistic expectations? Answer these questions truthfully and then look at how you have handled the attorney/client relationship. If you have problems with most everybody then the problem with your attorney is probably your personal problem. For you, I suggest that you don’t replace your attorney, rather try and work it out.
- Second, if it looks like the problem is your attorney, then try to figure out where the problem has occurred:
- Is there a lack of communication?
- Do you have different expectations?
- Do you fully understand the time and effort it takes to push L&I along?
- Does your attorney fully appreciate your situation?
- Have you been offered mental health counseling for the problem your injury is causing?
- Does the attorney have proper paralegal support to help you?
If the problem is your attorney, what are you going to do?
Work it out. I suggest you make an in-person or telephone appointment with your attorney to talk about the problem. Be prepared to state your version of the problem with specifics, so that the attorney understands and takes your concerns seriously. At the meeting don’t be shy, state your position strongly, listen to the attorney, and see if you two can figure out the problem and work out your differences. If your attorney has worked your case for years with little or no compensation, you for sure owe him the courtesy of trying hard to work this out.
Put up with it. Sometimes it’s best just to realize there’s going to be some differences and put up with the current situation; make the best of it.
Fire your attorney: First are these seven things you better think about if you might fire your attorney:
- How good is your case? If you have a great case it’s easy enough to get another good attorney. If your case is not so good, then no other attorney may be interested in helping you. If your case is not so good and you fire your lawyer, then you may be on your own. Many workers comp attorneys will be slow to take a marginal case where the previous lawyer was fired.
- How good a client are you? Are you a model client with reasonable expectations who follows instructions, helps solve problems, calls only when appropriate, and treats staff with courtesy? Or are you an obnoxious client who doesn’t listen, doesn’t help, and treats staff rudely and will soon alienate the next attorney who tries to help? Be careful here. If you are a difficult person to work with and you complain loudly or treat staff rudely, the lawyer may fire you.
- Look at your current fee agreement and see what says about what will happen if you fire that lawyer. Anything you agreed to is important, so think carefully about what it means.
- Keep in mind the new lawyer you hire may be better, worse, or no different. How many times have you had to change attorneys?
- Switching attorneys also may cost you money or cause you to lose some ground. It is similar to changing horses in mid stream and is seldom the best plan, however sometimes is better than not making it across at all.
- Not having an attorney could be better or worse than having one who isn’t getting the job done.
- If your case is in the middle of the appeal process, it is seldom wise to switch attorneys.
How to fire your attorney. Write the attorney a letter and include the following:
- Clearly tell him he or she is fired effectively immediately.
- Change your mailing address from his office to your address. Tell L&I the same.
- Ask for a copy of your file from the attorney.
- You can replace your attorney with yourself or with another attorney. If you replace your attorney with another attorney, he or she may take care of this letter and the new mailing address for you.