Changing Attorneys in the Middle of a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Sometimes when businesses in the Tampa Bay area consider filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they quickly choose an attorney and begin the process of the reorganization bankruptcy. While some bankruptcy cases can work out for the small business filing for Chapter 11 even if that business does not have the best lawyer handling the case, in most situations a rushed decision to file for bankruptcy and to hire a lawyer without doing the appropriate amount of homework leaves business owners in Chapter 11 wondering: can I change attorneys in the middle of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy?
The short answer to this question is yes. An individual or a business always has the right to fire an attorney and to hire a new one in the middle of a bankruptcy case. However, there are pros and cons to changing attorneys during your bankruptcy case. We will say more about these benefits and limitations after we discuss some reasons that you might want to consider changing lawyers.
Reasons You Should Consider Changing Lawyers for Your Bankruptcy Case
Imagine that a restaurant or a small retail establishment in Tampa recognizes that it cannot afford to pay its creditors, but the business owners know that sales will pick up during the upcoming season in Florida. In the meantime, however, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy seems like the best way to manage debt while keeping the doors of the business open. In a rush, that restaurant decides to hire the first bankruptcy lawyer the owners can find in the area, and the business moves forward with a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. However, the business owners soon realize that they might have made a bad decision in hiring this particular attorney. The following are some reasons that you may want to consider changing lawyers in your bankruptcy case:
- Lawyer does not have the appropriate experience to handle your case (for example, the attorney may have limited experience handling bankruptcy cases altogether, or may have experience solely representing individual consumers in Chapter 7 bankruptcy matters);
- Lawyer has failed to show up at one or more of your bankruptcy hearings;
- Lawyer has missed deadlines in your bankruptcy case;
- Inadequate communication (for example, your lawyer is not responding to your emails or phone calls; and/or
- New issues have arisen in your bankruptcy case that requires an attorney with different types of expertise or experience.
While some of the reasons we listed above may be frustrating, others can prevent you from ultimately moving forward with your bankruptcy case. For example, when a bankruptcy attorney misses deadlines, the bankruptcy court can decide not to approve your reorganization plan or allow the case to continue. Your attorney should be able to clearly inform you of deadlines that you must meet, and to meet important filing deadlines with the court.
If you decide to change lawyers because there are problems with your case, the benefits may be obvious: you will have a new attorney who is more suited to handling your case and helping to ensure that your business can remain open through the process of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Limitations of Changing a Lawyer When You Are Partially Through a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Often, businesses considering changing their attorney in the middle of a bankruptcy case will need to weigh the pros and cons. If the attorney has made significant errors that are affecting the possible outcome of the case, or if you need an attorney with a particular type of experience, the benefits likely will outweigh the limitations.
The following are some of the limitations associated with changing your lawyer in the middle of the process:
- More attorneys’ fees;
- More time involved in your case; and
- More paperwork for the bankruptcy court.
Process of Changing Attorneys
Typically, to change your bankruptcy lawyer, you will need to have the court’s approval. In order to have the court approve a change of attorney, you will usually need to file for “substitution of counsel” under Florida court rules.
Contact a Tampa Bankruptcy Attorney
If you need assistance with your Chapter 11 case, an experienced Tampa bankruptcy lawyer at our firm can help. Contact Samantha L. Dammer for more information.