If you are not satisfied or unhappy with your current attorney, you may have the option to hire a new attorney who would “substitute” into a case for your current attorney.
Typically, an unhappy client seeks new counsel while their current attorney is still retained. Clients seek new counsel for a number of reasons. One of the most common is because the client believes there has been a breakdown in the communication or relationship with their current attorney. The client then seeks the advice and counsel of a new attorney and if the client believes the new attorney would provide more suitable counsel, then they can hire this new attorney and the new attorney is “substituted” for the current attorney.
In Wisconsin, there is a formal process that your current attorney and the new attorney must go through in order to complete the substitution. A Substitution of Attorneys agreement is required. This agreement, or stipulation, must be signed by both the client and the former attorney and is typically prepared by the new attorney. If the client wishes, they do not need to communicate with their prior attorney at all. This can be handled strictly by the old and new attorney. However, the client can certainly tell their current attorney directly that they wish to substitute attorneys as well. Once this form is signed, it must be sent to the court and the court must also approve the substitution.
It is important to note that even if a substitution is approved by the client’s current attorney and then ultimately by the court, the client still must resolve all fees and costs associated with their prior attorney. In Wisconsin, the previous attorney is entitled to a judgment for outstanding fees against client when a substitution occurs and sometimes they demand that this is stated in the Substitution of Attorneys form prior to signing same.
Also, there are instances where the court will not approve a substitution. For example, if there is an upcoming trial date and the new attorney would need an adjournment to give them time to prepare. Or, if there have been too many substitutions in the case already.
It is also important to note that there are drawbacks to substituting attorneys. The drawbacks include that a new attorney has to learn your case, essentially starting over, whereas your current attorney has your complete file and is more familiar with your case history. There are also costs associated with a new attorney: retainer fees, costs for having to have your file copied, and costs for completing the formal process of substituting the attorneys.
Despite the above drawbacks, creating and maintaining a healthy and working client/attorney relationship as you navigate through your case is often superior to the costs and drawbacks.
If you have any questions regarding substitution of attorneys or if you are seeking new counsel, please contact our office at 414-258-1644 to schedule a free initial office consultation or visit our website for more information.