Yes, you can change lawyers is the short answer to this question!
Changing lawyers during a personal injury claim is actually more common than many clients realise.
In this article I look at common situations when a client may wish to change lawyers, and the procedure that is followed if you decide to transfer your file to a new lawyer.
Why do clients change lawyers?
With any type of legal work, it is crucial that you are confident in your lawyer and happy with their approach. When a client loses confidence, this can trigger when they contemplate changing lawyers.
If you are not receiving the service you expected, either in respect of the legal work or client care, the relationship can quickly break down. This does not bode well for the outcome of your case.
Reasons why clients decide to change lawyers include:
Do I have to give a reason for changing lawyers?
No, you do not have to specify a reason why you want to change lawyers. You are entitled to change lawyers for any reason, and you do not need to tell your old lawyer why you are switching.
You may have serious cause for concern, for example, you had an initial meeting with a senior lawyer, but as soon as you signed up your file was passed to a junior lawyer or paralegal. Or perhaps your lawyer made a mistake in your matter and you have lost confidence in them.
Alternatively the reason why you wish to change lawyers may be due to the level of service that you are receiving rather than the quality of the legal advice. For example, if your calls are always screened by a secretary and you can never get through to your lawyer, or you feel that you are just a case number and do not have any rapport with your lawyer.
Whatever the reason, you are entitled to switch lawyers if you are not happy, and you do not need to give a reason.
I am unhappy with my lawyer. Should I give them a second chance?
If you are unhappy with your lawyer but the relationship has not yet broken down, I would recommend that you explain your concerns to your lawyer and see if they can rectify the problem.
Whilst you are entitled to transfer your file to a new lawyer, this will inevitably cause delay and additional cost in your claim as your new lawyer gets on top of your case. I would therefore recommend that you give your lawyer a second chance.
I suggest that you ask your lawyer for a face to face or video meeting and you talk through your concerns with them. Take notes with you to give you confidence and make sure you do not forget to say anything. Lawyers are only human too, and they might not even realise that they had done something that had made you unhappy.
If you are not satisfied with how receptive your lawyer is to your concerns in your meeting, or if they do not change after you have raised your complaint, you are free to switch lawyers. At least you will have the peace of mind that you gave your lawyer the chance to make it work.
What if I think that my lawyer was negligent or breached their professional duties?
If you think that your lawyer was negligent or breached their professional duties to you, this is of course a very serious concern.
In my view, in these circumstances it is best to talk to another professional about these situations.
In the case of potential negligence, I suggest that you talk to another lawyer who does the same type of work to scope their views. In the case of personal injury work, most law firms offer a free no-obligation appointment. If they consider that your lawyer acted negligently, they might be able to help you themselves. Otherwise they will be able to refer you to a professional negligence lawyer.
If you think that your lawyer has broken their professional duties towards you, for example breached confidentiality or acted without your instructions, I suggest that you speak to the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner.
How do I change lawyers?
The procedure for changing lawyers is far more straightforward and common than you might think. Over the years I have acted for several clients who started their claims with other law firms. Switching lawyers is a fact of professional life for lawyers, and we do not take it personally.
If you wish to switch lawyers, the first thing to do is chose a new one. Most personal injury lawyers offer a free initial no obligation consultation. Use these meetings to shop around and find someone that has the right expertise and who you feel comfortable with.
Once you have chosen your new lawyer, they will take care of everything. They will ask you to sign an authority form requesting your first lawyer to transfer your case file to them. Your new lawyer will send this form to your old lawyer. You will not need to tell your old lawyer that you are changing firms, or speak to your old lawyer at all.
What is a Tripartite Deed?
Once your old lawyer receives the authority form from your new lawyer requesting your case file, they will probably prepare a Tripartite Deed.
A Tripartite Deed is a document that you, your old lawyer and your new lawyer sign to process the transfer of your file and protect your old lawyer’s rights in respect of outstanding fees for work that they did in your claim.
If you were paying your old lawyer privately for the work that they did, there would not be any outstanding fees. However, if your old lawyer was working on a No Win No Fee basis, it would not be fair for them not to receive payment for work that they have done before they lost the opportunity to win your case. The Tripartite Deed therefore protects your old lawyer’s rights.
Your new lawyer will check the Tripartite Deed and advise you about it.
Will it cost me anything to change lawyers?
This depends on the type of costs agreement that you had with your old lawyer.
If your case was a personal injury claim of some kind, you probably had a No Win No Fee agreement with them.
In the case of No Win No Fee agreements, your old lawyer will probably not require payment for the work that they did on your file. However they will want to protect their right to be paid their outstanding fees. This is done by signing a Tripartite Agreement as explained above.
Your old lawyer may, however, have incurred expenses in your case called disbursements. These could be medical reports, court filing fees, translation fees, and really any other charge that they have incurred whilst working on your file.
As your old lawyer may have paid cash out of their firm’s own pocket for these expenses, they will want this money repaid to them. Under your costs agreement with your old lawyer, they are probably entitled to have their expenses refunded. Your new lawyer will therefore come to an agreement with your old lawyer regarding these expenses.
In my experience, I have agreed to pay the the old lawyer’s expenses when a client has come to me from elsewhere. Once the old lawyer received the cheque, I was sent the client’s file.
Of course, every case is different. Your new lawyer will be able to explain any cost involved in having your file transferred to them depending on your costs agreement with your old lawyer.
What happens if I think my first lawyers overcharged me?
If you think that your first lawyer overcharged you, let your new lawyer know. If possible, have specific grounds for not agreeing with the charges. For example:
In the typical case of personal injury work where you have agreed to pay your old lawyer at the successful end of your case, your new lawyer will be able to negotiate the level of fees that you repay. The above information from you will be helpful to your new lawyer when negotiating what you believe are reasonable charges.
I have previously taken over files from other law firms where client contested the fees charged. I have been able to negotiate fee reductions amicably with the old lawyers, without taking it further.
If it is not possible to negotiate a fee reduction with your old lawyer, there is a process that can be followed to get their fees formally assessed. This is done by making an application to the Supreme Court for the old lawyer’s bill to be checked independently.
Will changing lawyers affect my claim?
Changing lawyers will inevitably lead to a delay in the progress of your case for a short while and some increased costs. This is because it will take your new lawyer a little time to obtain your file and get on top of it.
If you are unhappy with your lawyer, this is a small price to pay to switch lawyers to one that you feel comfortable with. The best results occur in cases when a client and lawyer work well together.
However, be mindful that it inevitably takes time for a new lawyer to get up to speed on a file. If you have imminent deadlines like limitation dates or a hearing date, tell your proposed new lawyer about them when you have an initial discussion with them. Whether they have capacity to do urgent work on your file is an important consideration for both of you.
Can I transfer my travel law claim to Victory Travel & Cruise Lawyers?
If I believe that I can win your travel or cruise law case and there is sufficient time to meet any relevant deadlines, I would be happy to accept it from another law firm.
There are so many personal injury law firms out there, I know how hard it must be to choose one. You can’t always be right first time.
More and more general personal injury law firms have started advertising travel law and cruise law claims in the last few years. However, this is a niche area of law and is far from straightforward. You might therefore be in a situation whether there is extensive delay or increased cost because your lawyer is unsure about what to do.
Perhaps you are happy with the legal abilities of your current law firm, but you feel like a faceless client in a pile of claims. Unfortunately, this is particularly common with large law firms.
Whatever your reason for wanting to switch, I would be happy to have a free no-obligation confidential chat about it.
How do I switch to Victory Travel & Cruise Lawyers?
Switching to Victory Travel & Cruise Lawyers is easy!
Simply book a free no-obligation appointment with me directly in my calendar, and I will take care of the rest.
This article does not comprise legal advice and neither Victory Travel & Cruise Lawyers nor the author accepts any responsibility for it. For advice on your specific circumstances, book an appointment with a lawyer.