Legal Information

When the Legal System Fails You

Working with the lawyer you have

If you have problems with your lawyer or you think your lawyer is not representing you well, talk to your lawyer.  It is usually best to discuss your concerns with the attorney, ask for specific things that you want from him/her, and give the attorney a chance to correct his/her actions.  If that doesn't work, here are a few other ideas:

  • If your lawyer works for an organization (such as Legal Aid) or a law firm, talk to the lawyer's supervisor and work your way up the ranks to the director or head lawyer until you get the results that you want. If it doesn't help, and you still feel that you are not getting good representation, you can always ask if a different lawyer from the organization or law firm can take over the case.
  • If your lawyer has been appointed by the court, you may want to ask the judge to appoint some else.  Keeping notes about the problems you are having with the attorney could help make your case for a new lawyer (for example, if s/he isn’t returning your phone messages, keep a list of when you called and what message you left).  You do have the right to fire a court-appointed attorney even if you are not paying him – however, think carefully BEFORE you do this because the judge might not appoint a second attorney for you.  If you can't find a lawyer on your own, you will be left to represent yourself, which could be VERY difficult, especially if the abuser has a lawyer.  
  • You may want to make a complaint to the State Bar Association, which regulates attorneys in that state. Attorneys have a code of ethics and a code of conduct that they must follow – the Bar Association handles complaints about attorneys who violate these codes. However, investigations often take a long time and any punishment that may be handed down to the attorney will not specifically affect your case.