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If a taxpayer has particularly bad "personal chemistry" with an auditor of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the IRS will replace the "agent" with another one. Now one can't make this request repeatedly, because it will be seen as "stalling," but a taxpayer can get one, possibly two replacements by request.

Suppose a client asked a professional services provider to replace a worker on the account, citing a pretty good reason; "The worker isn't on board with our strategy," or even, "The worker greatly annoys our CEO." Is the firm then under an obligation to send a new worker? (The firm has 5-10 professionals so it's not like a two person outfit whereby "The only replacement is me, and I'm otherwise engaged.") Would a law firm in this situation have a higher or lower "duty of care" in this situation than another professional firm?

  • Is the client free to select another provider (as would not be the case with a government agency)? If you're the client, this might be a more useful angle to explore (or, at least, to suggest to the provider you're exploring). – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Oct 1 '18 at 11:53
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Would a law firm in this situation have a higher or lower "duty of care" in this situation than another professional firm?

No. But, the law firm would have to take care that the client wasn't, in practice, compromising the firm's professional independence or causing the law firm to engage in illegal activity.

In practice, law firms are usually accommodating, but cautious when this happens. The client can usually leave for another firm if desired, but the firm has to distinguish between accommodating something that makes the client happy and given the client professional quality service even if the client doesn't like the truth about the client's situation.

For example, a first lawyer may recommend that the client take a plea deal, and the client may ask to work with another lawyer in the firm. But, if taking the plea deal is the best recommendation, the new lawyer from the firm should make the same recommendation, although perhaps in different language and with a better documented letter explaining that the client didn't follow this advice from both lawyers, if that is what the client does.

How to deal with a case of a client who wants to insist on unethical conduct, such as racially discriminatory staffing of a case or unethically giving a false answer to an interrogatory in discovery, is one that is discussed at some length in professional ethics classes in law school.

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Unless the contract gives the customer the right: no. An independent contractor is free to comply with the contract in any way the say fit.

Of course, it would be a suicidal business move.

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Is the firm then under an obligation to send a new worker?

Generally speaking, I doubt it, at least from a legal standpoint. Nevertheless, the provider firm needs to evaluate the risk of liability traceable to the firm's possible negligence toward --or disregard of-- the customer's substantiated concerns or customer's foreseen harm.

Would a law firm in this situation have a higher or lower "duty of care" in this situation than another professional firm?

It would entail a higher duty of care, considering the ramifications of ineffective assistance by counsel such as res judicata, the fact that a client is bound by the acts of his or her lawyer, and the likely conflict of interests where client and attorney disagree.

Any law firm should be mindful that disagreements between attorney and client evidently places the attorney-client privilege on thin ice, which reinforces the need for reassignment of counsel (despite focusing on your question, I shall nonetheless make it clear that I strongly oppose the attorney-client privilege as outdated and obstructionist).

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