I had a very interesting call with an injured worker recently that was going through a unique situation. Her case was set for trial and as she was preparing for trial she felt her attorney was a bit off. So she looked him up and discovered that he’s not licensed to practice law. I can’t tell you enough how hugely surprising this is as it’s a potential felony and this person works at a well known firm.

So what it seems like is that this former attorney is working and just hasn’t told anyone that he lost his license.

While this is an extreme example, it’s not the first time we’ve seen an attorney doing a really bad job and it won’t be the last. Usually it comes down to lying, not being prepared, not knowing the case or the law or something awful like not showing up for court.

What I encouraged the caller to my office to do, since her case was older, is report her attorney to both the ARDC (the State lawyer licensing board) and to the boss of her lawyer. My guess is that the boss has no idea this guy lost his license. He’d likely be horrified to find out that it’s happening and that this attorney is putting his firm at risk including potentially exposing them to a legal malpractice lawsuit for mishandling of cases (that doesn’t appear to have happened in this case fortunately).

While this caller would have trouble finding a new attorney due to the age of the case, if you’ve been more recently injured and/or don’t have a settlement offer, the other thing to do is get a new lawyer. It costs nothing to you to switch firms. Quite often when your work comp attorney sucks they are either the head guy and burned out/bad at what they do or someone younger who is at a firm that accepts that type of terrible work performance. This caller is unique in that I think there’s a chance to get a better attorney at the firm to take over. Hopefully that actually happens.

What you can’t do is sit back and ignore nonsense, assume it’s acceptable or hope it goes away. You don’t have to be a jerk, but it’s perfectly acceptable to make a call to the head partner or your handling attorney and express your concerns. You are the customer and they should deliver customer service to you.

That doesn’t mean they do everything you want or are on call 24/7. It does mean that they advocate for you and that something shady, like practicing law without a license, shouldn’t happen.

And finally, a warning story about switching before it’s too late. One case we almost got involved in, but didn’t involved a downstate lawyer who the client felt wasn’t doing a job, but she “didn’t want to be a pain or a bother.” Long story short is that he settled her case and ran off with over $60,000 owed to her. This is another extreme example and hopefully she will get it back through a lawsuit against his partner. But in my experience, bad lawyers don’t suddenly turn it around. If you see red flags and ignore them, ultimately the bad result is on you in some ways.