Occasionally I have people approach me who already have a lawyer. They may be concerned about a lack of communication from their lawyer, a failure to move their file along on a timely basis or a host of other reasons. They ask if they can transfer their file to another personal injury lawyer. If you’ve been in an accident, the last thing that you want to have to deal with is the stress and aggravation of having to find another lawyer – particularly when your file may be complicated or have been ongoing for a number of years. Most contingency agreements (the agreements personal injury lawyers typically sign with people who have been injured in motor vehicle and slip and fall accidents) have a provision similar to the following:
If the Client chooses to terminate the Lawyers services, the Lawyers will be entitled to fair and reasonable compensation for the Lawyers services up to the time of termination or transfer, payable upon the conclusion of the Client’s claim.
What this means is that you can take your file to another lawyer at any time. Upon the conclusion of your claim, your original lawyer and your new lawyer will compare their respective efforts/time and ‘divvy up’ the fee between them. For example, if the legal fees under your contingency agreement are $1,000 and the original lawyer worked 20 hours on your file and the new lawyer worked 30 hours on your file, the original lawyer would be entitled to $400 of the $1,000 (20/50 x $1,000) and the new lawyer would be entitled to $600 of the $1,000 (30/50 x $1,000).
You should not end up spending any more money on the overall fees for having your case resolved.
Note, however, that if your case is particularly complicated you may have to provide the new lawyer with additional compensation in order to make taking on the file economically viable. The terms of the new retainer ought to be discussed in your first meeting with the (proposed) new lawyer.