When the attorney/representative signed you up as a client, you signed a contract outlining how much the attorney would be paid if you win. However, if you fire your attorney and sign up new representation, this contract is no longer valid. This does not mean that you no longer owe anything to the attorney for the work done. Once the case is completed, the Judge will go through a “fee petition process.” During this process, both the new and old representatives can submit an itemization of their time to the Judge. The claimant also gets an opportunity to write to the Court and challenge the petition of one of the firms or offer support for a firm that she feels did a particularly good job. The Judge then decides how much each representative should get.
Will I have to pay more than 25% of my backpay if I hire a new firm?
It is possible that this might happen. It is really up to the Judge to determine how much each firm gets. Most Judges tend to split the 25% fee between the two firms based upon how much work each did. However, I have seen Judges give each firm close to 25% each. Similarly, I have heard of Judges being displeased with the work done by both firms and awarding less than the 25%.
I Want To Fire My Attorney, But My Attorney or Representative But He Won’t Respond To My Call. What do I do?
This happens more than you would think. With the rise of the internet, attorneys are increasingly seeking cases many hundreds of miles away. Unfortunately, many of these firms are better at marketing their services than actually delivering them. This process is made worse by deceptive lead referral services. These practices often result in claimants not realizing that they are signing up with a firm on the other side of the country, whose attorneys have little or no practical advice for them. Buyer’s remorse is extremely common with clients of these firms. It is also common for clients to want other representation. When this happens, there are a good number of firms that simply ignore their clients’ requests to get off the case.
The reason that this is a problem is that the vast majority of attorneys attempt to practice with courtesy toward their clients and their fellow attorneys. Most attorneys will not feel comfortable even talking to a potential client while they are represented by someone else. Therefore, when a client calls wanting to fire the attorney, some firms just don’t acknowledge the call. This creates a situation where, after signing with a questionable out-of-state firm, a claimant feels they are stuck with them.
I spoke with one woman who was made to speak with five different non-attorneys from a Massachusetts firm before they finally sent her a withdrawal letter. After we had won the case for her, the firm sought fees to be paid for all of the times she had called asking them to get off the case.
First, see my previous post on whether to fire your attorney here before doing anything. However, if you have tried to work things out and it is clear that you have signed up with the wrong firm, bypass them altogether. Write a simple letter stating: “I no longer wish for attorney ______ to represent me in my claim for Social Security Disability benefits.” Sign it and include your Social Security number. Take the letter to the local Social Security office, which will take the attorney off as the listed representative in your case. Get a receipt showing that this attorney has been removed from the case. Mail a copy of the letter and the receipt to the old firm so they know their services have been terminated. At this point, you have what you need to go seek representation from another firm.