Can You Fire Your Lawyer?

Your Rights to File Your Lawyer

You can fire your lawyer at any time without any explanation or reason. To fire your lawyer, you simply need to tell him, “You’re fired!”

Typically, the incoming lawyer will send a letter to the outgoing lawyer asking to transfer the case file. The incoming lawyer is almost always expected to pay for the disbursements of the outgoing lawyer before she can retrieve your case file.

Liens of the Outgoing Lawyer

When you fire your lawyer, you will not pay for more than one legal fee at the end of the case. The legal fee will be divided between the outgoing and incoming lawyers, but you will pay the same amount that you would have paid. The firing of a lawyer does not affect the legal fee that you will pay.

Under New York’s Judiciary Law, the outgoing lawyer has a charging and retaining lien. A “charging lien” means that the legal fee of the outgoing lawyer will be determined at the conclusion of your case based upon the time and value that she added to your case. At the conclusion of the case, the outgoing and incoming lawyers will try to agree to the division of the legal fee and if they cannot agree, the court will decide how the fee is split among the lawyers.

A “retaining lien” means that your lawyer has the right to retain your case file–consisting of the pleadings, deposition transcripts, investigative materials, discovery demands and responses–until the incoming lawyer pays the disbursements (case expenses) of the outgoing lawyer. You are entitled to an itemized invoice listing every disbursement of the outgoing lawyer, including copies of receipts. You should not reimburse the outgoing lawyer for any disbursements that are not proven by a receipt.

When You Should Fire Your Lawyer

If you feel that your lawyer is not honest with you or you do not trust him, it’s time to part ways with your lawyer.

If your lawyer won’t speak or meet with you (and doesn’t offer a decent explanation), it might be time to find a new lawyer.

If your lawyer won’t let you see your case documents, you should question why. Under New York law, the case file belongs to you–this means your lawyer must let you see your case file. No explanation is necessary.

If your lawyer is unethical or commits fraud, you should notify the New York Committee on Professional Standards. The Committee on Professional Standards is the state agency that investigates and disciplines lawyers for misconduct, including stealing, drug use, and mishandling of client funds.

Have questions about firing your lawyer?

If you have questions, we will be happy to speak with you. You can call us at 845-802-0047.