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Lawyers generally serve as advisors to clients, and in court cases, they serve as the client’s face, offering protection and professional aid. However, some clients may find that their lawyer is not fulfilling their expectations as expected or promised. In such situations, clients can decide to terminate their existing lawyer in exchange for a new one. The attorney client relationship is no different than any other relationship in the purest sense that at some point, there must be a foundation of trust and mutual understanding between the attorney and the client. Absent both key pillars, the relationship with your attorney is effectively destined for some degree of failure. 

It is important to be aware of the factors that can compel clients to terminate their attorney.  Ensuring that the service and care you provide is satisfactory can help eliminate the risk of displeasing your client, even if the ultimate results are unfavorable. However, in some instances, no matter what you do, the client will simply not be happy and will simply need to seek the services of another attorney.

Misconduct 

Unfortunately, some attorneys commit acts of misconduct (as do some clients). While there can be varying acts of misconduct by the attorney (or by your client if you are the attorney), you need to make the determination if it is in your best interest to continue the professional relationship that you have with this person (regardless of whether you are the attorney or the client). There is a higher duty imposed upon the attorney to acknowledge when a client has committed an act of misconduct to make an evaluative decision as to whether to continue in the representation of the client when they commit an act of misconduct. You as the attorney need to utilize your professional judgment as to the egregiousness of the client’s conduct and whether or not you wish to continue to represent them. 

Equally, as the client, if you do not feel comfortable with something that your attorney has done or would like to do, you need to make the determination as to whether continuing with your current counsel is in your best interests. 

Billing

While legal services can be expensive, most clients are aware of this before enlisting the aid of a lawyer. Even so, there are many aspects of billing that can cause friction and dissatisfaction. Spending an exorbitant amount of time on seemingly simple tasks such as preparing a letter to another attorney or a simple pleading will raise suspicions to the client and such behavior is simply unethical and if you notice such occurring on your monthly statements, you need to raise this to the attention of your attorney. There are some tasks that can clearly take a larger amount of time; however, simple tasks do not call for excessive billing. You as the client need to double check the monthly statements to ensure that you are being billed properly because mistakes can happen and sometimes the error is something unintentional and harmless. However, if a client suspects you are misusing their money or charging them too much, they may choose to fire you and find a lawyer who will not do the same thing.

Relationship

In some cases, clients may feel that they simply do not get along with their lawyer (and vice versa). Whether their personalities are incompatible, there is personal history, or the way they communicate presents minor but undeniable issues, a client may choose to fire their lawyer (or the attorney may withdraw from the case) due to the fact that the attorney no longer believes that they can work with the client. Withdrawing from a case is difficult for an attorney who cares about his or her clients; as withdrawing often feels as though you have lost because many attorneys genuinely care about their clients cases and about them as people. However, at some point if an impasse has been reached, you as the attorney (or the client) need to make a decision that is in your best interests. As the attorney, you may have reached a point where you and the client cannot agree on a particular strategy or means of pursuing the case. If and when such a point is reached, you have to make the determination if you can continue to represent the client given their demands. You as the attorney have to utilize both your knowledge of legal ethics as well as your sense of morality to determine whether or not the continuation of the relationship is feasible. 

Equally, as the client, if your attorney asks you to do something that you do not feel comfortable doing or you have reached a personality impasse; then you need to make a decision as to what is in your best interest going forward with your case. The decision to seek new counsel may be in your best interest.