Not everyone is happy with their representation. You might have hired a lawyer and agreed on their defense strategy initially, but now you are concerned that your lawyer is alienating you from the jury. Also, you might feel that your lawyer is less worried about your legal outcome and more concerned with billable hours. Whatever your feelings are, you might wonder at some point before or during your trial whether you can change your attorney. Unfortunately, the answer to that question is not as simple as yes or no. There are things you need to consider, and there might even be barriers to your decision.
If you hired an attorney, then there is nothing barring you from firing or terminating the contract with your attorney. In fact, most attorney-client contracts have a clause for such termination. However, it is necessary to consider the cost of this decision. When you fire an attorney, you are responsible for paying the fees and incurred costs up to the time of firing. Therefore, removing an attorney mid-case and hiring another firm in their place can result in a significant cost increase overall. Also, it might place you in the role of financial hardship in the middle of an emotionally trying time. Therefore, do not come to such a decision too hastily.
While you are likely free to remove and change your hired lawyer as you please, the same cannot be said for court-appointed counsel. A judge must approve the removal of a public defender, especially if the request is made mid-trial. The court likely won’t entertain the idea unless there are severe and provable inadequacies or personality differences.
While there are times when removing an attorney is the correct option – philosophical difference, known bias, professional neglect, etc. – you must weigh the pros and cons of such a decision. For example, while changing attorneys before a trial begins is not likely to affect the jury negatively, deciding to remove a lawyer mid-trial just might. Also, if your new lawyer decides on a different defense, then you risk confusing the jury and possibly losing their confidence in the process.
The best way to avoid the idea of changing representation is to find the right attorney to begin. Seek out counsel who listens to your needs and understands where you are coming from. Don’t find and hire an attorney simply because they have a degree. Take your time and interview a criminal defense attorney in San Mateo, CA to find the one who is right for you.
Thanks to The Morales Law Firm for their insight into criminal defense and when you can change your attorney.