Substitution of Counsel vs. Motion to Withdraw as Counsel 

Can I Fire My Lawyer? – Substitution of Counsel

If you have found yourself reading this article, then you are likely in a tricky situation. Your lawyer is looking to get out of your case. After however much time you both spent together, he suddenly does not want to be your lawyer any longer.  This leaves you wondering, is that even allowed? Well as always, the answer is it depends. 


There are two ways that your attorney may get out of your case. The easiest way is that you and your attorney sign what is called a substitution of counsel form. The harder way is that your attorney ends up filing a “motion to withdraw.”  We’ll talk about the first method this week – substitution of counsel – before addressing the motion to withdraw itself next week.


Substitution of Attorney

The first way that your lawyer may look to get out of your case is by having you sign a substitution of counsel form.  This is a simple form that is prepared by the California court system and can be found here.  Basically, it is a form that that is signed and turned into the court so that your attorney can get out of the case.


But who signs the form and what happens if you don’t agree to signing it?  Those are all good questions to consider.


The form itself has three signature lines. As the party to the case, you’ll always be the one signing the first line for “signature of party.” If you have a lawyer that is looking to get out of your case, then they’ll be the one signing the second line where it states “signature of former counsel.” 


The third line, and the one that gives us reason to think, is for the “signature of new attorney.” If you have a new attorney, then this is simple. Your new lawyer signs that third line and that’s it. Your former will likely turn this form into the court after. Your new attorney will then start representing you in the case.


The problem is, what happens if you don’t have a new lawyer? You can still sign the last line as the new attorney yourself and handle your own case. You can do this and still decide to hire a new lawyer later.  But we have to strongly caution you against this.


Anytime you are representing yourself and acting as your own lawyer, it is going to a very difficult experience in your case.  Obviously, you hire a lawyer because they know what they are doing. This is their job – it’s what they went to school for and what their role is every day. If they are a good lawyer, they know the rules and the court system, and they’ll know what they’re doing. 


Being your own lawyer, instead, will likely run you into trouble. Just like someone suddenly couldn’t come in and do your job tomorrow, you’re likewise not going to be able to fill your attorney’s shoes either. Our best advice is to always consider hiring another lawyer before you sign this form to represent yourself.  


This then leads us to our next problem, what happens if you then refused altogether to sign the substitution of counsel form? In other words, what happens you don’t agree to your attorney withdrawing? Well, in that case, your lawyer may file the motion to withdraw as your attorney in the case. That is the topic of next week’s discussion when we further address a motion to withdraw as counsel in your case. 


If you have a question or are considering filing a claim or lawsuit, please contact us to discuss with one of our experienced accident attorneys at (619) 736-0080 for a free consultation. 


Any content and information provided by this website and/or The Nalan Law Firm, PC is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or a substitute for competent legal counsel.  Any exchange of information contained in this website, is not intended, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.





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