How to Fire Your Lawyer – Everything You Should Know

  • Your first step should be to understand the billing.

  • They are entitled to recover fees and expenses for the work they have already done on your case.

  • You should send a termination letter to the lawyer.

  • It is necessary to do this as quickly as possible so your new lawyer can start work without delay.

  • The contract that you signed when engaging the lawyer is the retainer agreement.

  • Consult the retainer agreement: The contract that you signed when engaging the lawyer to work for you is the retainer agreement. The contract may also be called an engagement letter or fee agreement. The agreement would usually contain the terms of your relationship with the lawyer. It may also specify how the relationship may be brought to an end. If such a procedure is specified, follow this in terminating your relationship with the lawyer.

  • Hire a new lawyer: Before you begin to follow the procedure in the agreement or take the next steps here, it makes sense to go secure new representation first. There are several reasons why this would be best. Hiring a new lawyer before terminating the old one ensures that you do not suffer any lapse in representation. Your case will proceed with very little interruption if there’s already a new lawyer waiting to take over as soon as you fire the current one. The new attorney can also be helpful in looking over your retainer agreement and providing assistance with understanding the steps you should take to terminate your relationship with the old attorney.

  • Send a termination letter: If you’re clear on the procedure in the retainer agreement, follow those steps. If there’s no procedure specified, your next step should be to send a termination letter to the attorney. You should send this letter by certified or registered mail so you have proof that the attorney received the letter.

    As a rule, you should do the following in your letter:  

      • Include a short and formal statement informing the attorney that you would no longer be needing their services. You do not have to include a reason. 
      • Request that the attorney stop work on all pending matters 
      • Request that your files be returned to you immediately. The files should include any letters you wrote to the attorney instructing them on your case, documents or exhibits you made available to the attorney and other documents or information personal to you. These files legally belong to you and you are entitled to recover both originals and photocopies. 
      • If you paid a retainer, you should demand a refund of any unearned fees
      • Request an itemized bill of charges outlining all fees and expenses that are outstanding, if any 
  • Finalize arrangement on transfer of files: The attorney should acknowledge the letter and proffer an arrangement for how you will recover your files. It is necessary to do this as quickly as possible so your new attorney can start work without delay.

  • Inform the court: Finally, if your case was already in court, you will need to inform the court about your change of counsel. This may be done on your behalf by the new attorney or in collaboration with the old. 

  • Request copies of the retainer agreement: Your first step should be to understand if the billing was as per your agreement. The Ontario Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys requires that lawyers clearly explain their fees and necessary expenses to clients before acting on their behalf. These fees should be outlined in the retainer. If things still do not add up after going through the agreement, your next step should be to contact the attorney.

  • Talk to the lawyer about the bill: Contacting the attorney does two things. First, it lets you clarify your understanding of the retainer agreement so you can be certain you did not misunderstand your applicable fees. Second, it lets you give the attorney an opportunity to remedy the problem, as you may have been unintentionally overbilled.

  • Request a refund: If it turns that you were really overbilled and the attorney has not done anything about it, your next step should to formally request a refund. Billing you more than is necessary is not only unprofessional, it may be ground for a civil action against the attorney. 

  • Take administrative action: If the attorney still fails to remedy the situation, you may take administrative action by contacting the Ontario Supreme Court of Justice’s Assessment Office. They will review your bill of charges and advise you on the next steps to take.

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Hiring Divorce Lawyers the Make or Break Tips

Rethinking “Lawyering Up”

  • Control the Process: Working with a mediator and CDFA, you and your spouse maintain control over the process, making decisions collaboratively instead of dictating them by attorneys or the court.

  • Financial Clarity: A CDFA brings financial expertise to your case, helping you understand financial decisions’ short- and long-term implications.

  • Comprehensive Disclosure: These professionals guide you in gathering necessary disclosure documents, ensuring no financial stones are left unturned before consulting a lawyer.

  • Focused Negotiations: Mediators help parties stay focused on their real intentions and the main issues, preventing distractions from the path of resolution.

  • Cost-Effective: Mediation and financial analysis can often be more cost-effective than immediately “lawyering up” while offering comprehensive guidance.

  • Reduced Animosity: Opting for mediation first may reduce the antagonism between parties. The traditional “lawyering up” approach can create an adversarial atmosphere that fuels hostility.

  • Holistic Approach: Mediators and CDFAs consider monetary and non-monetary aspects, such as children’s welfare, providing a more holistic view of your situation.

  • Informed Legal Decisions: A solid understanding of your finances and intentions empowers you to make more informed decisions when seeking legal advice.

  • Protection of Rights: The modern family law system ensures your rights are protected – consulting a mediator or CDFA first doesn’t negate this protection.

  • Better for Children: Focusing on finances and children first helps create a more stable environment during this transition, which is often better for children.

Remember, the goal is to make your divorce or separation as smooth as possible for all involved. Therefore, starting with a mediator and CDFA might not be the traditional route. Still, it could be right for you, providing clarity, control, and a comprehensive view of your situation before you step into a lawyer’s office. As always, every situation is unique, so consider your options carefully and seek the best approach for your family.

Is it bad to switch lawyers?

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Finding a Family Lawyer: Ultimate Guide with Top Tips

Choose wisely based on the information you get, your assessment and of course, gut feeling. When meeting with your lawyer, make sure you go with all the vital documents pertinent to the success of your case.

We realize there is still so much you need to learn about finding a divorce lawyer near you. To this end, download this Ebook for greater insight on finding a family lawyer.

The ebook, Expert secrets to finding a divorce lawyer discusses in greater detail how to find the best divorce lawyers, things to do during interviews with your chosen family lawyer, and many more tips to answer your question on choosing the best divorce lawyer near you.

Family lawyer
About the Author:
Ken Maynard CDFA, Acc.FM

I assist intelligent and successful couples in crafting rapid, custom separation agreements that pave the way for a smooth transition towards a secure future. This efficient process is achieved in about four meetings, effectively sidestepping the excessive conflicts, confusion, and costs commonly linked to legal proceedings. Clients have the flexibility to collaborate with me either via video conference or in-person through a DTSW associate at any of our six Greater Toronto mediation centers, located in Aurora, Barrie, North York, Vaughan, Mississauga, and Scarborough.

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