Can I Replace My Bankruptcy Lawyer?
You can fire and replace your bankruptcy lawyer at any time. Learn when you might want to do so, and how to find a new attorney.
If you are unhappy with the service your bankruptcy attorney is providing, you can replace him or her at any time. Read on to learn more about why you may need to replace your lawyer and what to look for when hiring a new one.
You Can Fire Your Bankruptcy Attorney
Debtors hire bankruptcy lawyers to advise and guide them through the bankruptcy system. Just like other types of professionals, bankruptcy attorneys provide a service in exchange for a fee. If you are unhappy with the service, you can fire your attorney. (Learn more about whether you should fire your bankruptcy attorney.)
Drawbacks of Replacing Your Bankruptcy Attorney
Replacing your attorney during bankruptcy may:
- cause delays in the bankruptcy process
- create more work for you (because you will need to explain your circumstances and provide documents to a new lawyer)
- cause problems with your lawyer regarding attorney fees you already paid (discussed below), or
- increase your overall attorneys fees.
For these reasons, replacing your bankruptcy attorney should be a last resort. Typically, if you have a problem with your bankruptcy lawyer, you can resolve the issue by talking to him or her about it. But in some circumstances, the best thing to do is to fire and replace your lawyer.
Reasons to Replace Your Bankruptcy Lawyer
In general, you may want to replace your bankruptcy attorney if he or she:
- doesn’t return your calls or respond to your emails
- doesn’t have the expertise to handle your bankruptcy
- doesn’t provide competent advice about your rights, responsibilities, or the bankruptcy process
- doesn’t come to your appointments or court hearings, or
- misses filing deadlines with the court.
What to Look for When Hiring a New Bankruptcy Attorney
Bankruptcy is a specialized area of the law. Not all attorneys have the skill and expertise necessary to guide you through the bankruptcy process. If you want to replace your current lawyer, make sure to hire a knowledgeable and competent bankruptcy attorney who can handle your case.
When hiring a new bankruptcy attorney, you should make sure that he or she:
- regularly handles bankruptcy cases
- knows the local rules and bankruptcy trustees in your area
- has the necessary skills and experience to handle your specific case
- charges a reasonable fee, and
- communicates effectively.
(Learn more about what to look for in a bankruptcy attorney.)
How to Find a Good Bankruptcy Attorney
There are many resources available to you when looking for a new attorney. In many cases, you can find a competent bankruptcy lawyer through:
- recommendations from your friends, family, or coworkers
- referrals from other attorneys in your area
- your employer’s group legal plan
- county or state bar association lawyer referral services
- nonprofit organizations such as legal aid societies
- legal clinics, or
- Internet directories.
(Learn more about how to find a good bankruptcy lawyer.)
What Happens to the Attorney Fees You Already Paid?
When you hired your bankruptcy attorney, you probably had to pay a certain amount of fees to retain him or her. If you replace your attorney, what happens to the fees you already paid?
There is no easy answer to this question. In some cases, it can be difficult to get the attorney to refund some or all of your fees. But in general, a lawyer can’t keep fees that are unearned, excessive, or unreasonable.
Whether or not you are entitled to a refund of your fees will typically depend on:
- the provisions of your retainer agreement (the contract between you and your attorney)
- what stage your bankruptcy case is in
- the amount of work the attorney has done
- your state bar association’s rules of professional conduct, and
- whether you filed for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
(Learn more about what happens to your fees if you fire your bankruptcy lawyer.)