What steps must be taken to change from one law firm to a new one?
Hire a new lawyer and ask them to help. It should not generally be a problem. However, if you are involved in litigation the old lawyer may have to be formally relieved from representing you, and that process may require that certain formalities be adhered to.
Be aware that one of the first questions most lawyers ask is whether you had a prior lawyer. No lawyer really wants to take on a new client that is bashing their old lawyer. And if you've had several prior lawyers, the concern gets greater. So be prepared to have a reason that makes sense. Also, you are usually best off leaving your old lawyer in a professional manner and on good terms. You might need the old lawyers input on transferring the file, an issue might come up on which the old lawyer may have the most knowledge etc. Even if you think the old lawyer was terrible, you don't want to create a situation where your new lawyer or future lawyers are uncomfortable working with you. In most cases, most lawyers will gracefully bow out and help transition a file if they know there fee is being paid and they are done. Usually that is the best route for everyone, including you.
Before making the move, you should discuss with the new lawyer how to handle the transition. You can often save time, money and aggravation if the transition is planned properly. Sometimes this means your paying the last bill and the old lawyer sending the new lawyer the file. In other cases, it means the old lawyer finishing up documents or a phase of a transaction in process, so that momentum isn't lost, etc. If there is a strict tough time deadline (e.g., tax filing, court date) the old lawyer might be asked to finish up the work to meet the deadline with some oversight (or even none) from the new lawyer, and then to turn over the file after that.
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