How to Fire an Attorney and Get Retainer Back?

When you hire an attorney, you might have entered into a contract that asks you to pay an advance. This agreement doesn’t push you into an employer-employee relationship. Later on, you realize that he is incapable of arguing your case and wonder “How to fire an attorney and get retainer back?

It is your right to decide who should appear on your behalf. You can terminate the contract if the lawyer continuously proves incompetent. However, you must take quick steps before the final hearing of your case happens.

The process is not as easy as it looks. You might be working with your lawyer to get the custody of your children back. Imagine how difficult it is to get stuck with a lawyer you find incapable of fighting your case. Undesirable- isn’t it?

How do I fire a lawyer?


If you are thinking “can you fire your lawyer and get your money back?” Then, the answer is Yes, you can. For this, you must know there are certain things you should be mindful of before firing a lawyer. 

  1. Understand how the retainer works?
  2. You need to pay for the work done till now.
  3. You should send a letter mentioning the termination of the contract.
  4. When you decide to annul the contract, send the letter immediately. The lawyer can stop working for you with immediate effect.
  5. You should get back the retainer agreement.
  6. You need not justify your action to your lawyer when you terminate the contract.

If you doubt, “can I fire my lawyer and get the retainer back?” Tell yourself that it is legal to do so. However, how to conclude whether a lawyer is not worth your time? 

  • If the attorney does not achieve the desired results, you can terminate the agreement.
  • You may terminate the agreement when you feel the attorney is charging you more than the actual worth of his services.

Changing the lawyer when the divorce case is in progress would alter the case outcome. Find ways to mitigate the risk and get custody of your children. 

How to Fire an Attorney and Get Retainer Back?


You should follow five steps to fire a lawyer and get back the retainer.

It is not enough to keep the decision to yourself. Inform publicly to terminate the contract effectively. The process usually remains the same. Since it is a contract to hire a lawyer, it may also depend on the terms and conditions of the agreement.

1. Read the retainer contract carefully:

While agreeing to hire a lawyer governs your relationship with the attorney. Sometimes this engagement letter might contain the terms under which you should sever the relationship. In such a case, you need to follow the terms and conditions mentioned in the contract.

2. Appoint a new lawyer


Once you make your intention public, appoint a new lawyer to ensure there is no interruption in your work. Let the procedure to terminate the relationship with the existing lawyer continues, but don’t wait for things to complete. 

Your new attorney would be a tower of strength in expediting the termination process. He will study the retainer agreement and help you proceed according to the terms and conditions of the retainer contract.

3. Send a termination letter


If there is anything mentioned in the retainer contract regarding the terms of termination of the contract, follow that. If the terms and conditions are blurry, send a termination letter at the earliest to save money on the lawyer’s salary. 

Send the letter through registered mail and get the proof of the same. You must include a note appealing to him to stop the work and return the case documents. Any letters you wrote to them instructing them how to proceed with the case and other proof you have submitted them. 

Any original or duplicate copy belongs to you and you can demand them to return everything related to the case. Ask him to return the retainer after deducting the charge for the service rendered.

4. Inform the judge 

The attorney should arrange the return of the document. meanwhile, you should inform the court regarding the change of attorney.

How to get my retainer back from the lawyer?

When you hire a lawyer to represent you, he may ask for deposit money as retainer money. Sometimes the lawyer may ask you to put in writing the retainer fee. It also contains rules regarding the lawyer fees if it is exhausted.

For example, the lawyer would have suggested that the case may take 30 hours to complete, and the client would have agreed to pay $200 per hour. By the end of the month, the attorney will send an invoice and make the necessary arrangements to transfer his fees from the special account to his personal account.

If the case gets over before the prescribed time, the lawyer will reimburse the remaining amount. If the case requires more time, the client shall deposit more money into the special account.

When you fire your lawyer, you may request him to give back the remaining amount after deducting the fee for the service rendered. Both of you don’t share any employer-employee relationship anymore.

Frequently Asked Questions:


#1  Reasons to terminate my attorney? 

  1. If the lawyer doesn’t pick up your calls or attempts to return your call, you can remove the attorney. 
  2. When your lawyer is not ready to present your case on designated dates and is highly disorganized. 
  3. When you don’t accept your lawyer’s advice or are incapable of fighting your cause. 
  4. Your attorney sends you exorbitant bills for his services.
  5.  You may find his conduct unethical.

#2 Can I terminate my lawyer through email?

 Yes, You can send an email expressing your intention to terminate his contract.

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If you entertain doubts such as Can you fire your lawyer and get back the retainer, the answer is YES. You can terminate the services of your lawyer when you find them incapable of taking care of your case. The lawyer is bound to return the documents and retainer after deducting the charges for the services rendered.

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