Deciding to change attorneys in the middle of a bankruptcy is a serious decision. You should try to address and resolve your concerns with your current attorney before you start looking for a new one. However, if your current attorney doesn’t return phone calls or respond to emails, if she makes important decisions regarding the case without consulting you, if she loses documents previously submitted or doesn’t meet court deadlines, you may have no other choice but to find a replacement.
- Interview attorneys to find the right replacement. Set up appointments where you explain your current situation and the problems you have with your current attorney. Respond to the questions the attorney asks regarding the status of your bankruptcy case. The new attorney will want to get as much information as possible to ascertain if he can provide you with the help you need. Choose a bankruptcy attorney who is patient and willing to respond to any questions or concerns you may have.
- Discuss the attorney’s fees for taking on your case. Find out how soon the new attorney can begin working on the case, and work out payment arrangements. You want to ensure the new attorney will have the time and resources to properly handle your case at its current stage within the bankruptcy process. Sign the retainer agreement, which should state exactly how much the attorney will charge and include an explanation of the legal services the attorney will provide.
- Inform the old bankruptcy attorney in writing via email and a mailed letter that you will no longer need his services. Let him know that you have retained new counsel to handle your bankruptcy case. Request that the attorney forward all of the paperwork you provided to him and any documents he received from creditors, the trustee or bankruptcy court to either you or your new attorney. Provide the mailing address where the paperwork should be sent. You can speak with the old attorney about your decision to terminate the attorney-client relationship, but you should also notify him of your decision in writing.
- Contact the newly hired attorney and inform him that the old attorney has received written notification of the termination. The new attorney can draft a motion to substitute attorney or draft a stipulation to substitute attorney. The old attorney also has the option of filing a motion to withdraw as legal counsel with the bankruptcy court. The requirements for the information and signatures that need to be included in a motion to substitute attorney or a motion to withdraw may vary for each district. Speak with your new attorney to find out which documents need to be submitted to the court, and which documents you need to sign to notify the bankruptcy court of the attorney change.
- Check with the new attorney about if or when the bankruptcy court will approve the attorney change. If the bankruptcy court approves the substitution, the court docket will be updated with the name and contact information of the new attorney. Any documents or notices from the bankruptcy court, bankruptcy trustee and creditors will be forwarded to your new attorney from that point on.