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OnPointLegal, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 545
Experience:  20+ years of legal experience
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Family Law, How do I fire my attorney or force her to give m

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How do I fire my attorney or force her to give me competent legal representation? I am going through a legal nightmare with my X that has gone on for 3.5 years, and we don't have any assets. What we do have are 5 children, 3 of which are at risk.
Two years ago, my wife orchestrated and encouraged a relationship with my oldest daughter, at the time she was 16, and a 22 year old man. My wife has always been moderately abusive with our kids. But this event was the straw that broke the camel’s back. As a result, I filed for a section 730 evaluations and have been seeking primary custody of my 3 youngest kids.   The two oldest already live with me and have very little to do with their mother. When we went to court, my wife countered with all sorts of false accusations against me and denied having knowledge of the young man’s age.
Two months ago my wife slapped one of the kids for making a mess; this was in the face of a court order not to lay a hand on the kids, and to forgo all cor
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  OnPointLegal replied 7 years ago.
To answer your question - How do I fire my attorney or force her to give me competent legal representation? First, as you probably know, you can't force her to give you competent legal representation. The rules governing lawyers (in her case, the rules of the State Bar of California) require that she provides competent legal representation. But, if she is not doing it, you obviously can't force her. You can report her to the State Bar. You could sue her for not providing competent legal representation. But, you can't force her to provide it. Perhaps, she is not capable of providing it. Or, perhaps, your definition of competent legal representation has a higher threshold than the actual threshold required by the State Bar. And, of course, from the very little bit I know from your posting, I can't judge the answer to whether you are asking to much or she is providing too little. So, I will simply say that you do have the options of going to the State Bar and/or bringing an action against her for malpractice.

To answer the other part of your question -- you can fire your attorney at any time for any reason or no reason. The attorney has no say in the matter. It is totally up to you. How do you do it? You could simply call her up, tell her you have decided to seek other legal counsel and that you will no longer being needing her services. Tell her you would like her to immediately forward your entire file to your address (or if you have a new attorney, to the new attorney.) She should send you the file without charge. And, that is it. She is fired. You might send her a letter instead so you have it in writing but, frankly, I have never heard of an attorney trying to continue representation after they have been fired and denying knowing they were fired. No attorney wants to fight with their client.

Some things to consider:

1) Have you paid her money beyond money for services she has already rendered? For example, sometimes attorneys will charge a flat fee for doing a certain piece of work (i.e.., representing you in a dispute over custody). You may have also paid her a retainer and she is billing hourly against the retainer. Do you have a retainer agreement or some other form of an agreement with her? If so, and you have paid her for services not yet rendered, see what it says happens. In the case of having paid her a retainer, she should return the unearned portion of the retainer to you very quickly.

2) Do you have another attorney in place? If not, you might want to find one before firing her.

3) Is she really not offering competent legal representation or is the situation just very difficult and the court system not set up to perfectly handle these things? Frankly, the court system is not perfect. It is very frustrating. And, it can be manipulated by people who will lie (such as making false accuations as you describe). The judge does not know either of you. And, must make decisions based on his/her perceptions of what happens either in paper filings or in the courtroom. And, judges tend to have full dockets and not much time to focus on each individual matter. I am not defending your lawyer and I am not saying she is competent. I have no way of knowing. But, what I am going to suggest is that if you fire her and hire a different attorney, you might find the situation is no better but you have paid a new attorney to come up to speed on your case. So, maybe before firing her, you should consult with some other attorneys. You should be able to get no-fee or low-fee initial consultations. Talk to a few attorneys. See if you can find someone you are more comfortable with and that says they can get you a different (better) result -- before you fire her.

I wish you the best.

OnPointLegal, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 545
Experience: 20+ years of legal experience
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