In the ideal world, you select the right attorney for you civil case at the outset. Sometimes there are developments, such as other companion cases that occur, that makes it too complex or the “wrong fit” for the attorney’s practice and/or client’s objectives. For these and a myriad of other reasons, attorney-client relationships falter or need to end at times like other relationships.
The question is when you should change counsel? There are no hard and fast rules on this topic. But this blog addresses three major considerations you should take in changing counsel.
Disagreement and emotional responses in litigation can be normal and healthy: This is not normally a good reason to change counsel, unless it rises to the level of disrespect, yelling, or worse. Most legal matters involve significant legal stakes. There are winners and losers in litigation. Because of this dynamic, it is normal for disagreements to occur or tempers to flare. This is inherent in working through a problem instead of ignoring it, which may be magnified by every letter or call you receive from the attorney and come to a head in a meeting.
Sometimes angst and doubt come because there is a delay in the apparent movement in the case. At other times, this is a disagreement in the attorney’s office. A good way to determine if you have confidence in the attorney is to make a list of concerns and have a meeting to address them. Communicate. There may be a key factor or issue that is not understood between the two of you that clears up the issues in the relationship. Based on that meeting, and your understanding of the disagreement and its resolution, make the decision to stay with your counsel or change to a different counsel.
Disagreement as to the means to prosecute the case and your legal objectives: As a general rule what you want to obtain in the litigation, such as sole custody, is your decision to make. Certainly, you should carefully listen to your attorney if he or she is advising you your goal is unrealistic. At the end of the day, however, the objective of what you want to accomplish is yours to make.
The means to getting there, such as discovery, hiring experts, is a topic the attorney should work with you to decide but are ordinarily left to the attorney’s discretion. There are many different types of attorneys to fill the vast array of legal needs clients have, and these determinations may demonstrate you do not have the counsel you need. For instance, if you seek sole physical custody, and your attorney does not want to try that case and you cannot reach an agreement, it is probably time to consider changing counsel. In any case, DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE TIME OF TRIAL TO DECIDE TO SWITCH COUNSEL.
Disagreement as to communication, handling your case, the way it is prepared: Presupposing a reasonable legal position on your part, and a general understanding of what you face in court, your “gut” feeling is often right. If you want more access to your attorney than he or she is willing to provided, does not seem to be “learning” your case to tell your case in the evidence, or other red flags or gut feelings lead you to believe you are not going to have your case properly handled, a meeting is still a good idea. If that is not fruitful and you believe your case is not being handled as you need it to be handled, then you should consider switching counsel. Remember, the law is clear - a client is bound by his or her attorney’s actions and inactions. McKinley, Inc. v. Skyllas, 77 N.E. 3 818 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017). Thus, you should change counsel well before trial, if possible, as you will are bound by the judge’s decision.
This blog is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle divorce cases of all types throughout Indiana, as well as general civil litigation and criminal defense. This blog is provided for general informational purposes and is not a solicitation for services or specific legal advice. It is an advertisement.