24 Jul 16

Can I represent myself if I don’t like my lawyer?

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Most people who go to court do have the right to represent themselves during the trial if unhappy with a lawyer. You will need to terminate your current divorce attorney first. Although that can be simple, some problems might arise depending on your exact situation. Here is what you need to understand about firing your attorney and representing yourself in court.

Firing a Lawyer

The first point to understand is that attorneys and clients are bound by a simple contract that is largely like any other business agreement. This means that you can usually fire an attorney at nearly any time you see fit. You often do not even have to provide a sound reason. It is even possible to fire your lawyer after a trial has started or just a couple of days after hiring the attorney. You can then let the court know that you wish to represent yourself as what is called a per se litigant.

How Judges Can Interfere

There are some exceptions to the rule that you can terminate your lawyer at any time and represent yourself. It is possible that the judge overseeing a court case could interfere. This happens only in rare and specific cases. A judge might decide that firing the lawyer close to the first day of trial could unnecessarily delay the case. Some judges will take action during complicated cases because of the perception that the litigant will not get a fair trial. It depends on the circumstances of the case and the judge whether this will happen.

Possible Consequences

Although you normally have the right to fire your lawyer, you might still face some serious financial and legal consequences afterwards. The agreement that you signed with your lawyer might list fees or other penalties for firing the attorney. The lawyer will still be entitled to full payment for all services rendered to you up until the termination date. You might have difficulty getting the paperwork related to your case leaving you unable to prove your points or defend yourself. It is important to carefully check the terms of your contract before firing your lawyer.

Reasons to Fire a Lawyer

There are several valid reasons to fire a lawyer. The attorney might stop communicating with you. This can leave you in a position where you cannot effectively work through your case or where you have no idea what is happening. Another reason is unprofessional behavior. This means your attorney is not prepared for court or seems to be wasting your time intentionally. You might have a deep disagreement about how to proceed with the case. That can hurt your chances of winning. A final reason is if your attorney does not seem to understand the facts of your case. That is a situation where firing the attorney might be necessary so that you can represent yourself.

Arguments against Representing Yourself

It is important to understand some of the pitfalls of representing yourself in court. You could be hit with complicated motions and other legal tactics that you will have no idea how to handle. You might not be able to effectively use the law to prove your evidence or defend against accusations. A lack of knowledge about how the courts work could result in missed filing deadlines and other mistakes that hurt your case. You must fully understand exactly what you are getting into if you decide to represent yourself in a court of law.


  • Laura says:

    Thank you for this article. It is very helpful.
    What can you do against you unprofessional lawyer if you feel that she complicates your case and does not submit documents on time, and basically holds you for money.

    Thannk you very much

    • wpengine says:

      Hi Laura,
      Your best bet is probably to have a frank conversation with the lawyer about your expectations and how the lawyer is failing. If that doesn’t work, you should switch lawyers as soon as possible.

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