When and How Do I Fire My Lawyer in Texas?
Clients regularly call me and ask me to represent them in Court for a variety of reasons. Every so often some of those clients that call tell me that they’re unhappy with their current lawyer. They might even tell me that they’ve fired their previous lawyer. While firing their lawyer is within their right, I become cautious when I can potentially be “Lawyer number 3, 4, etc…”
First, the Attorney-Client Relationship in Texas is controlled by the Rules of Professional Conduct. Also, like any other relationship, it can break down to the point where neither the lawyer or their client want to continue forward. At the end of the day, the lawyer is in charge of the strategy of the case and the client is in the driver’s seat when it comes to taking a plea deal, choosing between a trial by judge or jury trial, and whether or not they choose to testify. If you’re wondering, when and how do I fire my lawyer? then keep reading ahead.
Before we get into all of that though, I want to talk to you about some of the reasons that a client may choose to fire their lawyer. Depending on whether the lawyer was Court appointed or privately hired makes a difference when considering to fire your lawyer. When a relationship breaks down and no longer serves its purpose, it needs to end!
Why Would You or Why Did You Fire Your Lawyer?
There are a few main reasons that people choose to fire their lawyer. These are closely related. First, the client may choose to fire the lawyer because the lawyer is unresponsive to the client’s needs. By unresponsive I mean that the lawyer isn’t holding up their end of the relationship. They’re not communicating with the client as often as the client would like, or the client needs. Phone calls aren’t returned, emails are unanswered, and the lawyer is extremely difficult to get a hold of. This means that the client can’t really participate in their case as much as they could, or as much as they should. In any relationship, if there is no communication then the relationship dies.
Second, there may be a serious conflict or butting of heads between the personalities of the lawyer and the client. Different people have different intensities of personality. Some people are much more assertive and aggressive than others. Also, some people can’t handle following instructions from others. Oil and water personalities between lawyer and client will affect the client’s case. Cooperation and compromise are needed on both sides.
Third, the client may choose to fire the lawyer because the lawyer is pushing for an outcome that the client does not want or does not agree with the way the lawyer has handled the case. For example, many clients in criminal cases are offered plea bargains in exchange of giving up their right to a jury trial. The client is the one who decides whether or not to go to trial. It would be unfair to urge a client to go to trial if the client would much rather take a plea. The client may also disagree with the strategy the lawyer has chosen to defend the client. These things added up can make the attorney client relationship very toxic.
When can I fire my lawyer?
Privately Hired Lawyers
Clients have much more flexibility when hiring/firing a privately hired lawyer. By privately hired I mean one that you or your family has paid. This is not a Court appointed lawyer. Usually, as long as your case is in its early stages (under 6 months) and isn’t on the eve of trial, a Judge will allow you to fire your lawyer and hire a new one.
Why wouldn’t a Judge let me fire my private lawyer?
A Judge usually won’t let you fire your private lawyer for a few reasons. First, if you have hired and fired many lawyers throughout the case, the Judge will see a pattern. Over time, this can delay the progress of your case moving forward. Second, it may be too close to trial. The time for the new lawyer to prepare for a trial could take months and months. Most Judges don’t want to further delay a trial because you can’t decide on which lawyer you want. This is especially true when it is clear to the Judge that your current lawyer has worked hard on your case. A third reason may be that the Judge thinks that you are looking to delay your case, you may have run out of money, and firing your current lawyer would cause the Court to have to appoint a lawyer for you. This means the taxpayers would have to pick up the bill for your trial.
Why wouldn’t a Judge let me fire my Court appointed lawyer?
You have the Constitutional Right to have an attorney represent you in your criminal case if you can’t afford one. You are entitled to have A lawyer, not the BEST lawyer. Judges usually don’t want you playing musical lawyers and wasting the Court’s time, lawyers’ time, or your time. As I said before, you may have a serious breakdown of your relationship. If it is serious enough for the Judge, he or she may appoint you a new lawyer. Keep in mind that the Judge will look closely at your reason for wanting to fire your Court appointed lawyer. This is especially true the closer you are to your trial date.
How Do I Fire My Lawyer?
Normally this conversation is best to be started between you and your lawyer. Chances are high that if the relationship is not working for you, it’s not working for your lawyer either. I’ve had clients come in to talk to me and tell me that they’re considering firing me. In the heat of the moment, firing me may seem like a good idea. However, I’ve urged my clients to think over their decision. I will also urge you to think over your decision. Sleep on it for the night. Take the weekend to talk it over with your family. You may realize that your lawyer is doing what is best for you and has been working hard on your case.
At the end of all that thinking, if you still want to fire your lawyer, tell her or him. Ask them to file a Motion to Withdraw, and ask them to set it for a hearing with the Judge. However, if this happens, you should be prepared to fully explain your decision to the Judge, while you’re in Court. Don’t tell the Judge you don’t like your lawyer’s fashion sense, that you want a lawyer of the opposite sex, or some other reason that won’t make sense to the Judge or anyone else in the Court room.
The decision whether or not to fire your lawyer shouldn’t be made lightly or in the heat of the moment. In criminal defense cases, often your lawyer will not have news that you want to hear, rather news that you NEED to hear. Setting expectations right off the bat of your relationship will help in the long run. Set boundaries between you two. Tell your lawyer what you expect from him/her and they’ll tell you what you can expect from them. If you’re considering firing your lawyer, talk to them first! If you’ve already fired them, talk to me!