Can I Fire My Lawyer Before Trial?

by | Oct 29, 2021

You can fire your lawyer in Michigan at any time and for any reason. The comment to Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.16(a)(3) provides that a client has a right to discharge an attorney at any time, with or without cause.

If an attorney is hired on a contingency basis that needs to be fired, but now it is close to the first date of the trial, fear not, you are not stuck with them.  This does, however, depend on specific circumstances. Most of the time, you cannot just “fire” or drop your attorney. 

Although, if there are good reasons to do so, then it becomes an option.  

For instance, let’s say they are doing nothing on the case, are not returning calls or emails, or if they are continuously running late, not spending much time on your case, or they are rude to you or the court. Then, it is entirely in your rights to fire them.  Another example is if a conflict of interest comes up and your lawyer cannot represent you anymore because it will be a breach of their duty to the other party involved in the case.

Be mindful to always have another option before firing someone and, if possible, try to solve the problems with them first. When looking for a different lawyer, look for one who is more experienced in the specific area than the current lawyer is. Also, make sure they are available because some lawyers have stringent case deadlines while others are flexible about when you can hire or bring them on.

An attorney-client relationship is a contract between the client and the lawyer.  It is not a one-way relationship where the client is obligated for life. As long as there’s no fixed term of representation in the written agreement, then the law presumes that there is a term of representation until the client terminates it.

How do I remove an attorney from my case? 

Notify the court.

If your case is already filed within the court system, you (or your new attorney) will need to file a notice with the court that new counsel now represents you. Your new attorney will file a “motion for substitution of counsel,” and your old attorney will file a motion to withdraw.

However, this does not mean that it isn’t frowned upon by the court. The judge will most likely ask you to explain your issues with your attorney, especially if you are new to law and the court system. There must be a valid reason for firing them.

If the court feels that you are trying to be difficult with your attorney, they will not listen to you very carefully during the course of your trial.  You do have the right to fire representation at any time, whether it is before or after filing with the court system. You just need to remain respectful when doing so.

The court cannot arbitrarily change counsel for you. However, the court will support whatever decision you make as long as it is a valid reason for doing so.