Q. How do I fire my family law attorney?
You are free to discharge your attorney, and terminate his or her services,
for any reason and at any time. Attorneys cannot require that you first
pay off your bill, or that you reimburse them for expenses (including
any costs associated with copying your file) before they will withdraw.
In California this is accomplished with the Courts by both you and your
attorney signing a
Substitutions of Attorney which is then filed with the clerk of the Court where your case is pending.
Simply download this form, fill it out, and take it to your attorney's
office for their signature. Usually they will get it filed and send you
a "conformed" copy (i.e., one that bears the filing stamp of
Thurman W. Arnold III
If you do not have a pending case, you need simply write your lawyer an
email or letter telling him to cease all efforts on your behalf.
She must return your entire file, except her notes, within 10 days of
a written request. The California State Bar will discipline lawyers who
fail or refuse to comply. She must also give you a final accounting on
his bill within that time, and return all unused fees to you. Unless you
have a true flat fee arrangement, she cannot keep the balance of your
retainer and must turn over to you all unused funds within a reasonable time.
One important bit of advice, however: Be careful how you time firing your
lawyer. He or she is "on the hook" insofar as the Court is concerned
so long as they remain your attorney of record. There may be reasons why
you should wait until after a hearing takes place before signing the Substitution.
In the event you choose not to sign a Substitution of Attorney - where
for instance it is the attorney who is firing you - that attorney remains
on the hook until an Order for Withdrawal is signed by a Judge, which
can only occur after a Notice of Motion is filed by the attorney to be
relieved as your counsel. The motion process takes at least 25 days and
you are entitled to oppose it. The lawyer must provide a declaration stating
that the attorney-client relationship is broken between you, but they
are not required to say why (for instance, that you lied to them or were
uncooperative). Unfortunately, however, I see many lawyers who sloppily
do tell the court something that may hurt your case or the court's
perception of you. Frankly, if they do that it may be grounds for a State
We offer Second Opinions and frank and discreet, expert advice, by telephone
and video-conferencing and webcam!