What you need to know:
- You have the right to fire your lawyer at any time
- You still have to pay the lawyer for any work performed
- The lawyer must assist you in the transition to a new lawyer
- In a contingency case, the fired lawyer may still hold a lien on any future settlement or judgment, but only for the amount of work rendered up to the point of termination
Terminating the Lawyer-Client Relationship in Oklahoma
You have the right to terminate your lawyer at any time. Terminating your lawyer does not relieve you of your responsibility to pay for any services rendered up to that point.
Per the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct (the ethics rules for lawyers),
A client has a right to discharge a lawyer at any time, with or without cause, subject to liability for payment for the lawyer’s services. Where future dispute about the withdrawal may be anticipated, it may be advisable to prepare a written statement reciting the circumstances.
Rule 1.16, Comment 4. Further, the lawyer must assist you in the termination of the attorney-client relationship. Again, per the ethics rules:
Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee or expenses that has not been earned or incurred. The lawyer may retain papers relating to the client to the extent permitted by other law.
In a contingency case, your right to fire the lawyer is still the same, but deciding the lawyer’s fee is a bit different. In a contingency case, the lawyer’s fee is a percentage of any settlement or judgment you win in court. You do not pay the lawyer up front. So if you fire the lawyer before settlement, the lawyer has a lien on any future settlement or judgment. The amount of the lien is not certain, since the case is not merely about billable hours. The lawyer is entitled to quantum merit, or the reasonable value of the services rendered.
How to Properly Terminate Legal Representation
Here is how to best fire your lawyer so as to avoid any ambiguities or problems later.
- Send your lawyer notice in writing that you desire to terminate the representation immediately.
- Ask that your lawyer prepare a statement of any an all expenses incurred in the lawsuit.
- Ask that your lawyer prepare a statement of what services were rendered in pursuit of the claim, and the reasonable value of those services.
The above may be accomplished by writing a letter or sending an email. When you hire new counsel, your former counsel should assist new counsel in taking over the case.