Nothing is more important than having a lawyer you can trust. A lawyer you can rely upon to look out for you and your interests. Someone who will listen and be open and honest with you.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Often it will be entirely unintentional, and lawyers can sometimes become too busy for their own good. However, that is not an excuse, and you are not stuck.

If you are in this situation, you should first contact your lawyer and attempt to resolve any misunderstandings. Perhaps there is a reason for delays in your case, and maybe your lawyer is genuinely working hard to overcome those delays. Possibly there has been confusion as to the agreed plan to advance your case. Regardless of the situation, a simple telephone discussion may resolve those issues.

If the issues cannot be resolved, then you have the right to change your lawyer (or law firm) if you desire.

Let's assume you have taken those steps and you have decided to move to another firm. The process for transferring your file will be:

  1. Do some research and decide which firm or lawyer you want to use. Clearly the first firm or lawyer was not a "good fit", and it is important that your new lawyer will better serve your needs.
  2. Your new lawyer will ask that you sign an authority enabling them to transfer your file.
  3. That signed authority will be sent to the old lawyer. At this stage, the old lawyer will NOT be allowed to contact you (this is a breach of the law). All dealings will be between the old and new lawyers.
  4. The old lawyer may ask that their costs or disbursements be paid before the file is sent to your new lawyer. This is called a "lien" and the old solicitor may have rights to keep your file until those conditions are met. However, the file cannot be unreasonably withheld.
  5. Once those issues are overcome (which can usually occur quickly), the file will be sent to your new lawyer.
  6. Your case is now ready to continue. You have hit a few bumps along the way, but hopefully you are now heading in the right direction under the guidance of your new lawyer.

That process will generally apply to most claims. There are a few exceptions.

For example, in workers compensation claims the lawyer's costs and disbursements are likely to be subject to an ILARS grant of funding from the Independent Review Office. In this instance, the issue of a solicitor exercising a "lien" is less relevant because the new lawyer will not be responsible for paying the costs. Instead, an agreement will be reached as to how the ILARS grant of funding will be divided between the old and new lawyers, and the transfer is likely to occur relatively quickly.

In most other compensation cases, lawyers who have agreed to act on a "no win, no fee" basis will only have the right to repayment of their fees if the case eventually succeeds. Due to that "no win, no fee" agreement, usually a contract (called a deed) will be signed to confirm that if your case succeeds, then your old lawyer will be paid for the work that they have done to date. This will all depend upon the Service Agreement (also called a Cost Agreement or Disclosure) which you signed when your case started.

If you have any questions about this process, Kells can help. We pride ourselves on our commitment to our clients and we can provide you with the guidance you need.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.