Can I fire my family law attorney?

Posted on May 1, 2019 by Katie Carter

It’s not like it’s something that happens every day, but, sometimes, things don’t work out between a client and an attorney. Sometimes, it’s the fault of the attorney (hey, you already know it – we’re not perfect); sometimes, it’s the fault of the client; sometimes, it’s situational.

You can fire your family law attorney – you’re not stuck with representation that just isn’t working for you, for whatever reason. I’ve seen lots of craziness happen in these cases, so I can’t rule out, well, pretty much anything. Anything can happen.

What should I do if I think my attorney is doing a bad job?

I hear complaints about attorneys pretty frequently. But, in general, when someone asks me what they should do about an attorney in whom they are losing confidence, my answer is always the same: get a second opinion.

Let’s face it: sometimes, we’re unpopular just because the advice we give is the not the advice that our clients want to hear. The way I see it, though? It’s my job – in fact, its EXACTLY the point of my job – to give my clients advice. It’s also my job to do what my client wants, but usually, before I do that, I give them advice. Sometimes, my advice isn’t what the client hoped to hear, and doesn’t reflect what the client believes. In some cases, too, the client is less mad at the attorney and is more mad about hearing how the system works, what the judges think when certain issues are brought up, and how decisions have been rendered in other, similar cases.

I don’t make the rules, you know. Not many of us lawyers do. And, even if we DO participate in the legislative process (besides just regular voting), there are a LOT of factors involved in what laws get passed and what laws don’t.

So, it’s important to separate an attorney not telling you what you want to hear, or advising that you take a certain course of action that you’d REALLY like to take, with an attorney actually doing a bad job. It would be nice to think that you and your attorney will completely agree about how to pursue your case and what the likely results will be, but that’s not always the case — and we, as a group, are a little skittish about overpromising. We’re cautious. We deal in worst case scenarios. We like to prepare our clients for less-than-ideal situations, so that everyone can assess risk appropriately.

It doesn’t always make us the most popular.

So, before you fire your attorney and throw part of the money you’ve spent thus far down the drain, just get a second opinion. See if another attorney has the same assessment as yours. If so, it may be that you just have to face some uncomfortable truths. That can be super hard, especially if yours is a custody or support case, but it’s also important for you to know the strengths and weaknesses of your case. It may have a lot to do with what you choose to do strategically.

If the other attorney has better advice, or your personalities mesh better, or he or she has indicated that your attorney is doing something that is inadvisable (hey, it DOES happen), THEN maybe it’s time to consider a switch. But I wouldn’t just jump to fire an attorney without polling at least one other local area attorney to get their impression of your situation.

Then, by all means, fire your attorney. It is important that you work with someone who you liked and respect, who is responsive to you when you call or email or reach out, and who shares your common goals.

But my attorney is really doing a bad job!

It does happen. It’s not ideal, but it happens. In that case, I’d still get a second opinion. Since things have gone south with your first attorney, it’s probably a good idea to make sure that you and your next attorney are on the same page. You don’t want to run into any of the issues that you’ve come across since hiring your first attorney.

Ask questions. Get answers. Make a better decision the second time around.

Not sure what to ask or where to start? Request a free copy of our guide to hiring a family law attorney by clicking here.

Feel free to give us a call at 757-425-5200 if you have any questions or would like to set up a consultation with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys!