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Whether your attorney always goes by the book or acts like they skipped every ethics class in law school, trust and confidentiality are extremely important to the attorney-client relationship. The sensitive information you share also makes it tough to replace your lawyer if they quit. However, while it's often ideal to have the same attorney represent you from the beginning to the end of litigation and appeals, it's not always possible or even smart.
What Are the Guidelines for Ending the Attorney-Client Relationship?
The Rules of Professional Responsibility encourage attorneys to work with clients until their legal matter is completely resolved. However, the rules also recognize that it's not always in the client’s best interest to require the attorney to stay on. Therefore, there are situations when you should get new lawyer.
In general, it's much easier for you to fire your attorney than for your attorney to drop you as a client. But an attorney can withdraw if it won't have a large, negative impact on you, the client, or if the attorney has a compelling reason. It's not enough that the two of you simply disagree about something minor during litigation.
If your lawyer does withdraw from the case, he or she must inform you and the court. However, the court may refuse an attorney’s request and order him or her to continue to represent you.
Quitting Due to Client's Continued Criminal, Fraudulent, or Morally Repugnant Activities
There are also certain situations when your lawyer can quit even if it's not in your own best interest. For example, if your attorney has advised you not to do something criminal but you insist on doing it anyway, he or she may withdraw from the case. An attorney may also withdraw if you insist on acting in a way that he or she finds morally repugnant or fundamentally disagreeable. Similarly, the attorney may withdraw if you've used their services to commit a crime or a fraud.
These exceptions exist so that the attorney can continue to uphold the law and provide adequate representation. If your lawyer fundamentally disagrees with you, then it's unlikely that he or she will represent you as zealously as they should.
Client's Failure to Pay: Cause for Withdrawal
Your lawyer can also drop you as a client if you fail to pay your legal bills. However, he or she must give you reasonable warnings and opportunities to pay your bills first. Further, if you're unreasonably difficult or you refuse to cooperate during litigation, then your attorney may withdraw from the case.
Need a New Attorney? Receive a Free Case Review
The confidential attorney-client relationship is crucial to resolving legal matters efficiently and successfully. But like many relationships, it doesn't always last. Whether you were unfairly dropped in the middle of the litigation and appeals process, or you parted ways for other reasons, receive a free case review from an experienced attorney who might be able to assist you going forward.