As a client, you may have many questions about your attorney-client relationship. You may wonder if you are allowed to change lawyers for any reason or if changing lawyers would damage your case. You may be concerned whether a new lawyer could be brought up to speed fast enough to get you the results you are looking for. You may question whether a new lawyer could even make a difference in the outcome of the case. Or, you may wonder if you will be charged a fee by the lawyer you discharge.
Since 1998, Ohio has provided a discharged attorney quantum meruit as the measure of damages, regardless of whether there was cause for discharge. In Fox & Associates Co., L.P.A. v. Purdon, the Supreme Court of Ohio overturned the established rule from Scheinesohn v. Lemonek, which stated that where an express contingency fee contract between a lawyer and a client is breached by the client without just cause, the damages should be for the full contract price.
The court in Fox agreed with the defendant that the rule from Scheinesohn, if continued to be used in such cases, would have a chilling effect on the client’s right to discharge an attorney, with or without cause. The most important aspect of the attorney-client relationship is your trust and confidence in your attorney. If you no longer trust your attorney, it is necessary for you to be able to discharge the attorney without having to show cause or present evidence in order to effectuate the discharge.
The quantum meruit rule entitles a discharged attorney, whether discharged with or without cause, and whether the contract was express or implied, to recover the reasonable value of services rendered prior to the discharge.
Therefore, you may discharge your attorney for any reason. On the basis of quantum meruit, if you discharge your attorney without cause, you will be required to pay the attorney the reasonable value of services actually rendered to you.
As to questions of whether a new lawyer would be able to be brought up to speed fast enough or make a difference in your case, those answers depend on the specific circumstances of the case. If there are deadlines fast approaching, as was the case in Fox, it could be difficult to find a new attorney and catch them up on everything before those deadlines. No one can say for sure whether a new attorney would be able to make a difference in the outcome of your case. And, switching attorneys could have some adverse consequential effects on your case, or it could end up helping your case.
The bottom line is that you, the client, should always feel well-represented and have trust and confidence in you attorney. If you are unhappy, you have the right to fire your attorney and find a new one. If you are in need of legal services in any of our practice areas, please call The Fitch Law Firm at 855-LAW-OHIO.