It may begin with your calls going unanswered. Then a cancelled meeting. Then a few weeks pass with you having received no communication regarding the status of your matter. Maybe you get the sense that your lawyer can't really remember the details of your particular case, their files are in disarray or they have taken on too much that they are struggling to keep up with their workload. You may rationalise that you know he or she is busy. Lawyers are always busy, right? They will be on top of the matter and you just need to be patient. At Aptum Lawyers, we don't think you should have to rationalise. While lawyers are busy, you are paying a lot of money and you need to know that your matter is getting the attention it deserves. If you are reading this article, it's probably time to have a serious conversation with your lawyer or consider switching lawyers altogether.
1. Assess the warning signs
We have detailed below some significant warning signs that may indicate it's time to change lawyers:
- Your calls aren't promptly returned or you're not given a reasonable timeframe within which your lawyer will call you back (provided you're respectful of weekends, public holidays etc.);
- Your lawyer consistently reschedules meetings or cancels them altogether;
- Important documents that your lawyer has promised you aren't ready when they are supposed to be. While it is understood that everybody (even lawyers!) has emergencies now and again, there is only so much slack you can cut as a client. If this happens repeatedly, there could be a problem;
- Your lawyer asks you to complete forms you have already completed or provide documents that you have already provided. Again, we understand that mistakes happen, but a good lawyer should not make these mistakes repeatedly. You need to be assured that your files are organised and not in complete disarray;
- Your lawyer asks for repeated time extensions from the court without it serving your best interests; and
- You receive notices from the court or from another party saying that a deadline has been missed or that your case is about to be dismissed for lack of activity.
Recognise any of these warning signs? If so, it might be time to get a second opinion.
2. Meet with another lawyer to assess your case
If you are struggling to figure out whether your lawyer is up to it, it is probably worth meeting with another lawyer who can evaluate your case. It can be hard to know whether the problem is with your lawyer or with something bigger, such as uncooperative third parties or the bogged down court system. At Aptum Legal, we can help you evaluate your matter and give you advice on what to do about your current lawyer. In fact, we endeavour to give clients more control of the outcomes they are trying to achieve by constantly adapting to new thinking, new technologies, and methods and processes that have proven successful in other industries.
3. Raise these issues with your current lawyer
Changing lawyers may not be the right move for you at this point in your matter. However, we strongly believe it is important that you raise your concerns with your lawyer in a polite and calm manner. Whether you decide to email, call or meet in person, be specific about what you are taking issue with. Provide examples of where you think your lawyer has dropped the ball. The reaction of your lawyer will also help you to assess whether it's time to make a change. For instance, your lawyer may tell you that he or she has been involved in a month-long trial, which has made it hard to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the firm. Or, they might lash out and put you down. I think then, it's pretty clear that your lawyer isn't up to it and it's time to make a change.
Making the change
If you still think the relationship is unsalvageable, it might be time to terminate the engagement and switch to a new lawyer. Finding the right lawyer can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. As long as your expectations are reasonable, follow your instincts and be sure you are comfortable with your new lawyer.
At Aptum Legal, we believe the traditional way of providing legal services is failing. In commercial litigation, in particular, it is failing to provide high-quality service that delivers commercial outcomes. If you feel disempowered or disillusioned with your current lawyer, feel free to get in touch with Aptum Legal on 03 8639 0564.