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're unhappy with the service provided by your bankruptcy attorney, you can replace your lawyer at any time. Read on to learn more about why you might need to replace your lawyer and what to look for when hiring a new one.

Why You Should Replace Your Bankruptcy Lawyer

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.

For instance, you might want to replace a bankruptcy attorney who doesn't:

  • return your calls or respond to your emails
  • have the expertise to handle your bankruptcy

(Find out what you can expect from your bankruptcy lawyer.)

Drawbacks of Replacing Your Bankruptcy Attorney

Typically, replacing your bankruptcy attorney should be a last resort because doing so could cause problems with your case. Switching lawyers during bankruptcy might:

  • cause delays in the bankruptcy process
  • create more work for you (you'll need to explain your circumstances and provide bankruptcy documents to a new lawyer)
  • cause attorneys' fees problems (discussed below), or
  • increase your overall attorneys' fees.

You might try to resolve the issue by talking to your attorney. But in some circumstances, the best thing to do is to fire and replace your lawyer.

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, it's important to hire a knowledgeable and competent bankruptcy attorney who can handle your case.

When hiring a new bankruptcy attorney, you should make sure the lawyer:

  • 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.

Many resources are available to you when you're looking for a new attorney. For instance, 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.

Also, you should be aware that many bankruptcy lawyers don't have experience handling litigation. If your case involves motions or lawsuits, consider hiring a bankruptcy litigation attorney.

Dealing With Attorney Fees

When you hired your bankruptcy attorney, you probably paid a set amount of fees. If you replace your attorney, what happens to the fees already paid?

Unfortunately, there's no easy answer. Whether or not you're entitled to a refund of some or all of your fees will typically depend on:

  • the provisions of your retainer agreement (the contract between you and your attorney)
  • the state of the bankruptcy case
  • the amount of work performed
  • your state bar association's rules of professional conduct, and
  • whether you filed for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Also, as a rule of thumb, a lawyer can't keep fees that are unearned, excessive, or unreasonable. Even so, it can be difficult to get the attorney to issue a refund.

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