The hardest athletic endeavor anywhere in the world is to swing a bat in a professional baseball game. This is not just the baseball fans here in our offices talking; the great Ted Williams said it1, and he should know. He hit .400 for an entire season, the last of the big-time hitters to do that. So what manager in his right mind would ever put a pinch hitter in for Ted Williams? Frank “Pinky” Higgins, that’s who. Just as Higgins did the unthinkable for a very good reason, you can switch out … er, divorce … your divorce lawyer for your own very good reasons.
Considering Throwing in a Pinch Hitter?
Carroll Hardy pinch hit for Ted Williams on September 20, 1960, the only man ever to do so2. Williams fouled off a ball directly into his own foot, limped out of the batter’s box, winced off the field, and disappeared into the locker room. If you are a fan of the Salem Red Sox, you have to be a fan of the Boston Red Sox (or vice versa), so you have some reverence for the great Ted Williams. Pinky Higgins revered Williams, but he had to put Hardy in; he had no choice. Sometimes, your divorce lawyer could be walking around with a metaphorical limp, too, and you just have to put in a pinch hitter. Can you? Is it ethical? Is it legal?
Yes, You Can Fire Your Lawyer
The relationship between attorney and client is both professional and personal. You and your attorney have to feel comfortable with one another. Though you may have signed a contract with your lawyer, you are not compelled to continue in the case if you doubt your attorney (for reasons we will get into in a moment). You can change attorneys if your current attorney files a notice of withdrawal with the judge presiding over your case.
Your replaced lawyer will return all paperwork and files to you, and return any portion of a retainer fee not already used or allocated for work done but not yet billed.
Is Your Lawyer Making Rookie Mistakes?
Major league baseball has a Rookie Advanced League, home to three Virginia teams (we bet you cannot name them all without looking it up!). However beloved, these teams are not noted for polished, professional play. Virginia courts often see rookie lawyers, too, who make rookie mistakes. Perhaps your lawyer falls into this category, forgetting to gather depositions, file motions, or schedule court dates.
General ineptitude is certainly reason enough to change your divorce lawyer. You can stick with your rookie lawyer and hope for an improvement, or you can make the change in your lineup before you completely lose control of your game.
(Bristol Pirates, Bluefield Blue Jays and the Pulaski Yankees; did you win your bet?)
When Should You Replace Your Divorce Attorney?
The only exception to replacing a lawyer fairly effortlessly in Virginia is an actual courtroom trial or hearing. If you doubt your attorney’s ability, the night before your divorce hearing is not the time to try to put in a pinch hitter. The judge will refuse to accept the notice of withdrawal, since such a late substitution will disrupt proceedings; you will be stuck with your first lawyer.
Behind in the Count
Why would you want to replace your divorce lawyer? Suppose you discovered your lawyer was having an affair with your wife. That would be grounds, as recently happened in West Chester, Ohio.
Up from this Rookie League level of legal nonsense are other, more respectable reasons to terminate the professional services of a divorce attorney:
- Conflict of interest — You discover a previously unknown link between your spouse and the law firm
- Inefficiency — Is your attorney asking for the same paperwork you gave the office before? Does your attorney file for extensions and delays?
- Stiff-arm — Your attorney does not respond to telephone calls promptly (within 24 to 48 hours during the business week) or puts you off when you ask for details on case progress
- Sloppy work — You get a court notice that a deadline was missed; worse, you get a warning that your case will be tossed out due to a lack of activity
So, Here’s How to Fire Your Attorney
As they say about job hunting, the time to find a new job is while you have an old job. Never sever the tie to your attorney until you have a new lawyer lined up. Once you sign a contract with the new lawyer and provide pertinent dates, you are ready to end the relationship with your old attorney.
Inform your old attorney by mail or in person (with a letter of termination in hand). Any correspondence with your old attorney (mailed notice of termination or a letter you hand over) should include:
- The date the termination is effective
- A request to have your case paperwork and a copy of your client file sent to your new attorney (expect to pay for copying and delivery)
Ask your outgoing attorney for a complete bill, including an accounting of any retainer and how it was used (this helps determine if any of the retainer should be refunded to you).
Your new attorney will file an entry of appearance with the court, so the judge knows to expect new representation to show up at any divorce hearings or the trial.
Your new lawyer is likely to do better than Carroll Hardy did back in 1960. When Williams left the game, Hardy stepped in and promptly hit into a double play.
If you are considering changing your divorce attorney, please call The Firm for Men at 757-383-9184 for a consultation. If you are already our client and considering changing your divorce attorney, please call, stop by, or contact us – your satisfaction is our primary concern!
The Firm For Men is a divorce lawyer for men located in Virginia Beach and serving Hampton, Newport News, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Norfolk, and the surrounding areas! We’ve been protecting the men of Hampton Roads for over a decade and we couldn’t be prouder of the work we’re doing!