Once in a while i get requested to assume the responsibilities for a client’s file. Clients have the right to change lawyers up until their case is on the verge of a trial. Before then they can just send a letter to their lawyer and say I am getting a new lawyer on my case. Lately I have been asked to take over files in cases where 2 or 3 other lawyers had been involved before I got the call, all of them about RSD.
But who owns the “file?” Technically and legally the lawyer owns the file. What is in the file is called his work product unless there are some original documents like a Will, Promissory Note, photographs, original writings, recorded Deeds, etc. The materials gathered by the lawyer are his work product and include accident investigations, witness statements, photographs, diagrams, legal research, medical bills and records, depositions and court filings. Expert witness reports are another type of document in the file.
So when you ask for the file, you are entitled to get a duplicate of what is in the file and the Original of anything like the Will, Note, Deed, expert report. You or your new attorney will have to pay for the copy which is made for you. If the ex attorney refuses to provide you with a duplicate of the file, he may be penalized when it comes time to get a fee for services up til he was let go.
I wrote about this whole subject here.