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We get a lot of calls and emails from people who are not happy with their lawyers. Some just have questions. Some want a new firm. We’ll always tell you if we think you hired a good lawyer and if it sounds like they are doing a good job or not. Sometimes they suck. Other times they just don’t communicate well. Lots of questions come up about switching lawyers. Here are the top 10 things we think you should know.
- It costs nothing to switch work comp lawyers in Illinois. Total lawyer fees can never exceed 20%. So if you have a lawyer, fire them and get a new one, they have to work out how to split the 20%. Your bottom line won’t change.
- A big settlement offer can make switching hard. Typically if there is a settlement offer, the first attorney will get 20% of that offer. The new lawyer will only get paid if they can get you more money. If the case is a lot of work and the end result won’t be much more, many lawyers won’t touch it because they will be doing all the work and the first attorney will get most of the money. For example, if your first lawyer gets a $50,000.00 offer, they will get $10,000.00 in lawyer fees. If we take it over and increase the offer to $75,000.00, we will get $5,000.00 in lawyer fees which is 20% of the 25k more that we got you. Total lawyer fees will be 15k which is 20% of $75,000.00.
- Lawyers won’t take over cases that have gone to trial. We get a lot of calls from people who went to trial and lost. They want an attorney for their appeal. We don’t do that because we are limited to the evidence that your lawyer entered and the chances of winning an appeal are low.
- There are some lawyers whose clients fire them all the time. I’d say that 80% of the callers looking to fire a lawyer are with about five different firms. Some firms just do a bad job over and over.
- You can’t just tell a lawyer they are fired. In order for them to be off your case, the new lawyer has to file a motion to substitute in as your attorney and have it approved at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. In the alternative, your first lawyer can file a motion to withdraw from your case. Either way it has to be approved by an Arbitrator to be official.
- When you get a new lawyer, you need to get it right. There is no limit to the number of times that you can switch lawyers, but after you switch once it can be a challenge to get a good one to take it over.
- If you do switch more than once, the lawyer fees don’t go up. Even if you have three firms throughout the life of your case, the total attorney fee can’t exceed 20%.
- You don’t owe any money to your lawyer when you switch. Some people wrongly believe that if they get a new lawyer, they’ll have to pay the first attorney some money first. That’s not true and is illegal. Even if the attorney spent money on your case (such as fees for a subpoena or deposition) you don’t have to reimburse them at that point.
- The old lawyer can’t hold on to your file. Once they’ve been officially terminated, your attorney has to turn over the records related to your case. One Chicago firm is notorious for playing games with this. They also get dumped by their clients all the time.
- It’s illegal for a lawyer to put in your contract that you can’t fire them. There is also one terrible Chicago law firm that loses a lot of clients. To deter them, they put into the contract you sign when you hire them terms that make it seem like you aren’t allowed to fire them. That is not true and is also illegal.
We do encourage people to stay with their lawyer if it makes sense, but also to switch before it’s too late. If you have any questions about your claim or switching attorneys, please contact us at any time.