The Chicago Family Law Blog

Siohvaughn Funches-Wade Looking for 13th Attorney: Changing Counsel

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There are many reasons why one might want to change attorneys. Perhaps the current attorney costs too much. Or, maybe the communication between the attorney and client is failing. There's also the possibility that the attorney is simply awful.

Siohvaughn Funches-Wade, the ex of NBA star Dwyane Wade, has probably seen all of those issues and more. She's now going to need attorney number thirteen, after her current attorney successfully argued to the judge that he should be allowed to quit the case due to a breakdown in communication between the client and attorney, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

You might be facing a similar situation. Attorney-client relationships fail for probably just as many reasons as marriages do. So, if you and your family law attorney are not getting along, or your attorney is not performing as a lawyer should, you'll probably want to change representation.

Or perhaps, it's the other way around, like it was with Ms. Funches-Wade. Your attorney wants to quit the case, due to fee disputes, communication issues, or ethical quandaries. How does such a process work?

Normally, it's as simple as terminating any service relationship. One party says, "I quit" or "You're fired." Easy, right?

Well, that's only part of it. You'll also have to notify the court and file a motion to substitute counsel. This is usually a simple one page form, so it should not be much of an obstacle. Your new attorney will probably be happy to do it for you.

There is also a matter of finances. Often times, when switching attorneys, the matter is related to fees. And if you have built up a debt to your soon to be ex-attorney, that will become due. It's possible that the ex-attorney will be less likely to work with you on fees and billing once you are no longer a client, so you might have a large bill that becomes due immediately. Add in a down payment to your new counsel, and changing attorneys could cost a lot of money in the short term. Nonetheless, a short-term expense shouldn't keep you from choosing a lawyer that you are more comfortable with.

If your attorney is the one calling it quits, know that they cannot just drop the case and run. If quitting will significantly harm the client, the judge might not allow it. Examples are mid-trial or where the client cannot afford to get a new attorney. That doesn't mean the court will force the attorney to work for free. It just means they can't quit at an important stage of the proceedings due to a missed payment.

For Siohvaughn Funches-Wade, she was arguing that she could not afford new counsel. Her attorney, Michael Haber, argued that there was a breakdown in communications and he could no longer represent her. The judge, though skeptical of his motives, terminated the attorney-client relationship. Haber has pledged to help her during the transition.

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