“What if I don’t agree with my lawyer regarding tactics and strategies? Can I get a second legal opinion without firing my lawyer?”
The first or second time around, you may have chosen someone whom you feel is too aggressive or too soft, or who just may not have the depth of legal knowledge you require. You are deciding your future, and you have the right to a second opinion. You also have the right to ask your lawyer to send you copies of all correspondence, pleadings, affidavits, etc.
As a practical matter, many people don’t keep everything that their lawyers send them, and may need to obtain portions of their files in order to get a second opinion. While the Law Society requires cooperation between lawyers and, in theory, wants the lawyer giving the second opinion to contact the first lawyer and obtain his or her cooperation, that’s theory, not practice. Many clients don’t want their first lawyers to know they are questioning their judgment by seeking a second opinion.
Law Society Lawyer Referral offers a free half-hour consultation, and you might be able to take advantage of that for a second opinion. I don’t know how an adequate second opinion can be given in half an hour if the file is complicated, however, so you should be prepared to pay for the second opinion.
Remember that your first lawyer has a familiarity with your file that someone consulted for half an hour won’t have. The second lawyer hasn’t dealt with the file day-in and day-out — that’s why it’s better if the two lawyers can talk.
The second lawyer will look at you as a potential new client. In a way, he or she is in a conflict of interest. If the second lawyer say that your first lawyer is doing a bad job, the second will likely get a new file; if he or she says the first is doing a great job, you’re probably not going to change lawyers. So to a certain extent, telling the client that the first lawyer is doing well is not in the second’s better interest. This leads into the issue of integrity. You have to look at the integrity and knowledge of the second lawyer and decide whether he or she will give you good, objective advice before you hire him or her.
Judith Holzman is a collaboratively trained family lawyer who has practiced for over 33 years in the Toronto and York Region area. She has participated in amendments to the Family Law Act (provincial) and the Divorce Act (federal) in the area of religious divorce.