How do I fire my attorney and do I notify the court?
If nothing has been filed with the court designating your present attorney as your attorney, no motion should be necessary.
A contract to hire a lawyer is unlike any other contract you will ever make. It is a contract that you, the client, can terminate at any time and for any reason you think is appropriate. To discharge your attorney you only need to send your lawyer a letter telling the lawyer that you are discharging him or her and why. Once the lawyer has received this letter you are then free to talk to any other lawyer about taking over the case.
When a client fires a lawyer who has been working on a case on an hourly basis, the attorney is entitled to be paid for the time spent on the case up to the date of discharge. In some cases the attorney may also be entitled to payment for time spent in effecting the change of attorneys as well. Where an attorney was handling a case for a flat fee and is discharged, the attorney should be entitled to be paid for whatever percentage of the work he had completed prior to discharge and which will not have to be redone by the new lawyer.
But in a contingent fee case the compensation the attorney is entitled to received for the services provided on the case prior to being fired may well depend on whether the attorney is being discharged for cause (the client has legitimate grounds to fire the attorney) or without cause. When an attorney is discharged for cause, that attorney is not entitled to any fee for the services provided regardless of the ultimate outcome of the case. But if an attorney is discharged without cause, the contingent fee agreement changes to what is called quantum meruit, (Latin for how much is it worth?) This is usually expressed in an hourly rate but even this fee is still contingent on the case being successful. If the case is unsuccessful the discharged attorney gets the same fee he would have gotten if he had completed the unsuccessful case, nothing.
A client who discharges an attorney in a contingent fee case and hires a new lawyer to complete that case should make sure there is a clear written understanding as to whether any fee due the old lawyer comes out of the new lawyers contingent fee or is in addition to that fee. The obligation to pay attorneys fees is different from responsibility for out-of-pocket expenses which is governed by the state bar ethical rules of each state.