My attorney just dropped me. What do I do now?
My attorney in a civil matter dropped me and I just found out yesterday that I have 21 days to get a new attorney, and my time is up in 3 days. Is there any way to get an extension for this?
I had to write this quickly because I wanted you to see my answer as soon as possible:
My answer: Maybe. I’d contact the opposing attorney and ask for an extension. I would call and ask. You will likely be told “the attorney can’t come to the phone,” so I would then follow up my call with an email seeking an extension to find substitute counsel explaining that you learned today that you only have 3 days left of the 21 days (and explain why you just found out and why you couldn’t have taken care of this sooner). You’ll want that e-mail to document the fact that you tried to get opposing counsel to agree to you receiving a reasonable extension of time.
Then I would notify the court with the same thing, i.e., explaining to the court clerk that you learned today that you only have 3 days left of the 21 days (and explain why you just found out and why you couldn’t have taken care of this sooner). It’s doubtful that the court clerk can do anything to give you more time, but it’s important to document that you gave notice and that you informed the clerk of your efforts.
Then I would do my best to find a new lawyer within 3 days and ensure that that attorney files a notice of appearance as your counsel within that 3 days. This is serious. Failure to comply with the deadline or to obtain—in writing—an extension of the deadline could have some potentially serious and irreparable adverse effects on your case.
If you believe or know that for some reason you absolutely cannot get a new attorney before the 21-day period expires, you may wish to file a motion with the court to request an extension of time (a reasonably extension, I’d say around 7–10 days at most). Just because you filed the motion does not mean that your request will automatically be granted, so don’t make the mistake of believing that “ask and it shall be given.”
The safest course of action is to get a new lawyer to enter an appearance as your counsel before the time expires.
Finally, remember this: in the jurisdiction where I practice law (Utah), a litigant is not required to get a new lawyer. What I mean is: if your lawyer drops you as a client and withdraws as your counsel and you want to proceed on your own in the case, representing yourself, you can do that. You would need to file with the court a notice that you are choosing to proceed without counsel and to represent yourself in the case going forward. See Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 74. After you have done that, if in the future you determine you want or need a lawyer, you can hire a lawyer at your discretion and on your own timetable.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277