I Would Like to Change My Defense Lawyer. How Can I Do This?

At times, a criminal defendant may find that he or she is not satisfied with the attorney that was hired for one reason or another. Generally speaking, a defendant who has been appointed a public defender or who hired a private attorney can fire the original attorney and hire a new private attorney when he or she wants to do so. Usually, the defendant does not need court approval in order to take this action. However, there may be consequences to taking this action.

Reasons to Switch Defense Lawyers

A criminal defendant may become dissatisfied with a lawyer for a variety of reasons. For example, the lawyer may not be giving the defendant enough personal attention. The defendant may believe that the lawyer is not familiar with his or her case. He or she may feel that the lawyer is unnecessarily drawing out the case by requesting multiple continuances.

The defendant may have been under the impression that he or she was hiring a partner in the firm only to see the case delegated to a new attorney. While there may be many reasons why the criminal defendant is unhappy with representation, the defendant usually
does not have to show good cause for why he or she is switching attorneys.

Exceptions to Switching Attorneys

In some situations, the judge presiding over the case may not permit the defendant from hiring a new attorney. For example, the client may wish to hire a new attorney right before a trial, but this tactic may work against the prosecutor, who may only be able to have certain witnesses testify on a particular schedule.

The client may have switched attorneys several times already and the judge may feel that another switch may be to unnecessarily delay the trial. A judge may be more likely to grant the defendant’s request to change attorneys if there is a fundamental difference between the client and the lawyer, such as the two being completely unable to communicate, if the lawyer fails to investigate the case at all or if the attorney failing to file meritorious motions to exclude evidence that could harm the defendant’s case.

Disadvantages to Switching Attorneys

While the client is free to switch attorneys, there can be significant consequences to taking this course of action. For example, the criminal defendant will still be required to compensate the original attorney, as well as the new attorney.

The defendant will have to pay the former attorney the portion of the fee that the lawyer had earned. If a new attorney is hired, he or she may need to request a continuance in order to have more time to prepare for the case. If the defendant is in jail, this will further the amount of time that he or she remains in jail.

Alternatives to Switching Attorneys

In some scenarios, it may be in the client’s best interest to consider alternatives to getting a new attorney. Many problems can be solved by open communication. If the client is not content with representation, he or she may directly ask the lawyer about this. Much of what attorneys do is based on a particular strategy. In other cases, a lawyer may not have communicated something well at the time, but he or she may have a legitimate reason for a choice.

For example, if a lawyer requested a continuance, this may have been done because the lawyer had a scheduling conflict or because he or she wanted more time to contact a potential witness that would help the case. If you thought another approach was better, your attorney can explain the reasons why this alternative could have hurt your case.

Additionally, the client may consult with another attorney about the problem. If that attorney says that he or she would have pursued the same course of action, the client may come to understand that this method was not inherently flawed. If the lawyer is part of a firm, he or she may ask to speak to the lawyer’s superior. For example, a junior associate may have cases supervised by a regular associate. An associate may have cases supervised by an attorney.

The client can ask the supervising attorney what can be done to rectify the problem. In some situations, the case may be moved from one attorney in the firm to another attorney. This strategy can help to keep the file in-house where the original attorney can help catch the new attorney up on the case.

Provided by HG.org

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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