When Your Current Defense Attorney Isn’t Cutting it

If you’ve been charged with a crime, you need a criminal defense attorney. Unfortunately, it’s not just a matter of having an attorney. You want the right attorney.

Your choice of a criminal defense attorney is important, because having the right person on your side will help save you time and money. It will also reduce unnecessary stress and give you the best chance of a favorable outcome to your case. But finding the right defense attorney can take some time, and you don’t always get it right the first try.

Common Reasons for Client Dissatisfaction

There are a variety of different reasons why you might want to change your defense attorney:

  • Your attorney is not providing you with enough personal attention.
  • Your attorney is not doing a good enough job with your case.
  • Your attorney seems to be needlessly prolonging your case by seeking too many continuances.
  • Your attorney is not communicating with you regularly or in the manner that you’d like.
  • You thought you were hiring a senior partner in the law firm only to find out later that your case has been given to a junior partner.

It’s not out of the ordinary for criminal defense clients to feel these things about their attorney. Attorneys are human, after all, and differences in communication style and approach to practicing law can conflict with you might want. But whatever the reason you’re unhappy, just remember that you generally have the right to change your criminal defense attorney.

When Switching Attorneys Isn’t a Great Idea

Before you jump the gun and fire your attorney, though, there are some limitations to changing attorneys in the middle of a criminal case.

For one, if you want to fire your attorney after your trial has begun, you may need the court’s permission to do so. Courts will generally allow this, especially if you already have a new attorney to replace your current attorney. But, the court may deny the change if it thinks that it will unreasonably postpone your trial or delay your case. If you are approaching deadlines, you may be required to waive your constitutional right to a speedy trial, as well. You should discuss speedy trial deadlines and strategies regarding speedy trial before waiving this right.

Furthermore, in addition to paying your new attorney, you will still be obligated to reimburse your old attorney for any costs they have incurred while representing you and to compensate them for the amount of time they spent on your case. And once you hire a new attorney, he or she may need to request a continuance to get up to speed on your case, which will further increase your legal costs.

Finally, if you are in jail, changing attorneys may increase the length of time that you will have to remain in jail before securing a release. That’s never a good thing but at least you are likely entitled to presentence confinement credit if you ultimately end up receiving a jail sentence.

Try to Fix it before You Forget it

Before you go to the trouble of finding a new attorney and starting over again, though, there are some things you can try with your current defense attorney.

  1. Talk with Your Attorney: First things first, contact your defense attorney and discuss what you are unhappy about. You might discover, for example, that your attorney is doing a great job with your case but doing a bad job at communicating with you. Once he or she knows why you are unhappy, your attorney can try and change things for the better.
  2. Set Some Ground Rules: When speaking with your attorney, redefine your expectations as a client. Make sure that, going forward, you and the attorney will be on the same page with regard to these expectations. Also, set some ground rules for how often the two of you should speak, even if there is nothing new to report.
  3. Work on Effective Communication: A good attorney-client relationship requires good communication. After all, you want to be heard, and you need your questions answered. Some attorneys prefer email because they are frequently out of the office; others prefer phone calls or text messages for more immediate communication. Whatever the medium, find a way to achieve the most effective communication with your attorney that requires the least amount of time (since time is money).
  4. Contact the Law Firm: If the problems with your attorney are still ongoing after your conversation with them, try contacting someone else within that firm, such as an office manager or senior partner. Let them know what’s going on. The firm may be able to pair you with another attorney who is better suited to your needs and who will handle your case properly. Of course, this is only an option if you’re dealing with a law firm. If it’s a solo practice, like mine, you’ll need to work through your issues directly with the attorney.

The most important piece of advice I can give when it comes to approaching your attorney about your dissatisfaction: don’t be afraid of this conversation. As attorneys, we hear this kind of feedback all the time, and we want our clients to be satisfied. So just be honest about what’s going on.

When Nothing Works, and You’re Ready to Bail

If all else fails and you understand the drawbacks associated with changing your criminal defense attorney, it may be time to hire someone else. When you have found a suitable replacement, let the prospective attorney know that you are already being represented by someone. This is a key piece of information that I need to know the first time we talk.

Once hired, your new attorney can advise your old attorney that he or she will be taking over your case. Your old attorney will usually have no problem with being released from any further responsibilities in your case and will can hand over your files. However, even if you believe that you have found a suitable replacement, under no circumstances should you fire your current attorney until you have officially retained the services of your new attorney. Just don’t, no matter how much you may want to. Trust me on this.

Looking for a new criminal defense lawyer? Contact Nicol Gersch Law Offices, LLC

Don’t take chances with your criminal case. The stakes are too high. If you are not happy with your current criminal defense attorney, because they are not being responsive or you feel that they are not doing a good job, you should consider replacing them.

If you would like to have your case reviewed by an experienced and reputable Colorado criminal defense attorney, give Nicol Gersch Law Offices, LLC a call at (970) 670-0738 or fill in our contact form to schedule a free consultation.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship. It’s a blog post and not legal advice. Each case is different, and this post is meant for generalized knowledge, only. If you haven’t signed an engagement letter (or even received an engagement letter) AND issued some form of payment (peanuts do not count), then no attorney-client relationship exists. Nevertheless, we will do our best to ensure your confidentiality should you choose to contact us privately, but do not post about your case in the comments here (because reaching out for help with your case should be confidential, damn it).

If you have done both of the things mentioned earlier–signed a letter and paid us–then, and only then, you might be a client. But merely chatting with us online does not a client make. Suffice it to say, if you aren’t absolutely certain about whether or not an attorney-client relationship exists between yourself and NLO, you should probably ask for some clarity. Until then, we’ll keep your secrets but we don’t formally represent you… YET.