Posted on: 8 August 2018Share
When you hire a lawyer on contingency, this means that they're paid depending on whether or not you win the case. This method of payment is usually preferred by individuals who are unable to pay their lawyer an hourly fee. The contingency fee is usually a percentage of the winnings from the case.
However, every now and then, a client's relationship with their attorney can sour. There are many reasons why this could happen. If the client decides that it's better to part ways with the attorney, there is still the question of what this might cost them.
What the Rules Say
The Model Rules of Professional Conduct that are followed in most states in the country state that a client has the right to end their relationship at any time. When this happens, the attorney is required to refund any fee that was paid in advance or any money that was intended for expenses that were not incurred.
However, when a lawyer is hired on contingency, the only fee that they're paid at the start is a retainer fee. Therefore, depending on how long the attorney has been on the case and how much work they've put in, you may end up owing them money.
What Do You Owe the Replaced Attorney and How are they Paid?
Even after you've replaced an attorney, you may still be required to pay them a fee at the end of your case. Under the quantum meruit doctrine, which is used in many states, the attorney will be entitled to recover a certain amount of money from you for the services they provided. This amount has to be reasonable and in proportion to the value of the services they provided to you.
This doctrine is used to prevent people from unjustly enriching themselves by receiving services for free. If, however, the attorney made errors in your case that may have done some damage, they may not be entitled to any money. However, you'll still have to pay the replaced attorney for the expenses they incurred whether or not you win the case.
Should You Replace an Attorney in the First Place?
Replacing an attorney is a decision that shouldn't be made lightly. If, for example, you fire your auto accident attorney for a frivolous reason, other attorneys may be reluctant to take on your case. Additionally, a new attorney will have to do a lot of work in a short time to catch up, therefore, they may ask for a substantial retainer.