Yesterday, I met with a potential client who was considering changing attorneys in the middle of a divorce. Although dissatisfied with the present counsel, the potential client expressed concerns that the judge might have a negative opinion if there was a change mid-stream.
The lawyer client relationship is tough in many aspects. You have a “first date”, with someone you either heard of through a friend or acquaintance, read about on the internet, or saw in an ad. Let’s face it, Match.com sometimes has more info about a prospective suitor. You’re worried about your children, and your concerned what you will get, or what you will pay. And in most cases, you make a decision after about an hour or so consultation in which you condense years of your life into a short conversation. Just like a second date ( or a subsequent one) when a person realizes that “it’s just not working out,” some times the attorney client relationship is not meant to be.
The question is, why not? That is the crux of the matter. Sometimes it may just be a personality thing. I always say that in many ways, a matrimonial lawyer is also a pseudo-counselor. However, some lawyers simply cannot be in that role, and some clients need it. As in all relationships, there needs to be bonding between the client and the attorney with whom there will be a relationship for about a year and a half (at least).
Your case may have aspects which are simply better suited for other counsel. Does your case have issue which are particularly complex and you need someone who has a bit more experience with those issues? Did your attorney’s schedule get really busy and they simply do not have enough time to devote to your case.
When you are concerned, for any reason, get a second opinion. If you have a good lawyer, they will not mind this at all. This is the rest of your life, and you are entitled to feel comfortable about the decisions that you are making.
But back to the initial question, what will a judge think? Well, the first thing the judge is going to want to know is how it will delay the court’s calendar. This is why in some states, including New Jersey, after a certain point you have to get the court’s permission to change lawyers. But as long as there is good cause, the judges know that changes happens for many valid and good reasons and will often allow it.
That being said, when a client is unhappy with a lawyer because he or she is hearing something that they don’t want to, that’s another story entirely. Or, when someone has changed attorneys three times, that’s a sure sign that it may not be the attorney who is the issue. That gets me back to, get another opinion before making a change. If you are being told the same thing by several experienced attorneys, it may be time to listen.