What to Do When Your Lawyer Drops Your Case?
Most people rarely find themselves involved in a court proceeding. Hiring an attorney and going to court, whether civil or criminal court, can be a stressful event. The situation can become even more stressful if your lawyer drops your case.
Many people have never even considered that an attorney may choose to stop representing a client. You are entitled to legal representation, so why would your lawyer quit a case? Read on to learn more about the legal process of how an attorney may withdraw from a case, the ethical obligations owed to a client, a client’s legal rights, and the circumstances that may give rise to the situation.
Main Reasons an Attorney Would Withdraw From a Case
There are potentially many reasons why an attorney would withdraw from a case. However, there are a few main reasons why a lawyer may withdraw from a case, including the following:
Reason #1—The client fails to pay attorney’s fees as agreed
After the initial consultation, if you retain an attorney and agree upon an hourly rate, you will usually sign a contract obligating yourself to pay the fees and expenses incurred by your attorney on a specific schedule, such as monthly. Your attorney is entitled to the agreed-upon compensation for his or her services. If your attorney invoices you for fees and expenses incurred and you do not pay according to your contract, your lawyer may ask to withdraw from the case. Attorneys will not usually work for free. If you fall behind on paying the attorney’s fees, you should promptly have a discussion with your attorney and make a plan to catch up with payments.
Reason #2—The client withholds information, is untruthful, or is acting fraudulently
An attorney cannot properly represent a client who withholds important information that is relevant to the case. An experienced lawyer will usually inform the client that all information the client provides is confidential and that the client should freely disclose all relevant information. The attorney must be careful not to violate the professional rules of conduct or commit legal malpractice.
Some clients fear that their lawyer will not want to represent them if they are completely truthful about the facts of the case. However, your lawyer cannot prepare a proper strategy if you are untruthful and they do not have all the facts. Many times, an attorney will withdraw from the case if their client withholds information or is untruthful.
The attorney is even more likely to withdraw from the case if his or her client is acting fraudulently. The attorney is bound by the professional rules of conduct and cannot help a client present false evidence or otherwise be untruthful to the court. An attorney who knowingly helps a client commit fraud could be disbarred. If a client asks an attorney to violate the law, the attorney is wise to file a motion to withdraw from the case.
Reason #3—The attorney and client disagree on legal strategies or have conflicting personalities
If an attorney and a client cannot agree on a legal strategy for the case, the attorney will be unlikely to give his or her best effort. Similarly, if the attorney and client have conflicting personalities and frequently disagree or argue, the attorney may have a difficult time presenting the best case possible.
Both attorney and client should be on the same page when it comes to the strategy for the case. The client should also be made aware of the attorney’s opinion of the maximum compensation likely for the case. When it comes to legal strategy, it is equally important that both attorney and client agree on the necessary evidence to be presented to the court to put forth their best case. When client and attorney can’t agree on these important issues, it may be best to part ways. An attorney may file a motion to withdraw in a case where the client is in opposition to such key components of the case.
Reason #4—The attorney becomes aware of a conflict of interest that would prevent ethical representation of the client
If the attorney realizes that he or she has a conflict of interest, that attorney may need to withdraw from the case. For example, if an attorney is representing a client on an armed robbery charge and later learns that one of the eyewitnesses for the prosecution is his or her close friend or relative, the attorney may have a conflict of interest. In such a situation, the attorney may need to withdraw from representing the client.
Reason #5—The client terminates the attorney’s representation
Sometimes, a client decides that the attorney he or she is working with is not handling the case well. If a client fires a lawyer, the lawyer will file a motion to withdraw from the case.
Even when the client is responsible for his attorney filing a motion to withdraw, he or she will still need to know what to do when lawyer withdraws from a case. Such a client would be wise to seek the professional legal opinion of another attorney to learn whether to continue pursuing a relationship with the first attorney or to seek a new attorney to represent him or her in litigation. A second opinion from a competent lawyer is often a wise move.
Can a Lawyer Drop a Client in the Middle of a Case?
If a lawyer files a motion to withdraw in the middle of a case, he or she will need the judge’s permission for his motion to be granted. Once a case management schedule has been agreed upon and ordered by the judge, it is much more difficult for an attorney to withdraw from a case. When a case is well underway or is only a few weeks away from a trial, it is rare for the court to allow an attorney to withdraw. Doing so will likely cause unnecessary delays and prejudice the client or the opposing party.
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Under certain circumstances, the court will permit a lawyer to withdraw in the middle of a case; however, the attorney will need to produce necessary evidence for why his motion to withdraw should be granted.
How Does an Attorney Withdraw From a Case?
The first question you might be wondering is, “Can an attorney withdraw from a case?” Yes, an attorney is permitted to withdraw from a case in certain situations; however, there are steps that must be followed, including:
- The attorney must determine that he or she has a valid reason to withdraw from the case.
- The attorney must notify the client of the intent to withdraw and explain why.
- The attorney must file a motion to withdraw with the court.
- The court may grant the motion to withdraw without a hearing or may schedule a hearing to decide whether the motion to withdraw should be granted.
- If a hearing is set for the motion to withdraw, the attorney must present any evidence for why he or she should be permitted to withdraw. If the client opposes the motion to withdraw, the client will have the opportunity to explain to the court why the attorney should not be permitted to withdraw from the case.
- The court will make a ruling deciding whether the attorney will be allowed to withdraw from the case.
If you are in the middle of a case that is heading to trial in the near future, you may wonder, “Can a lawyer withdraw from case management and pretrial court appearances that have been set in advance?” If the client opposes the attorney’s motion to withdraw and if allowing the attorney to withdraw would unnecessarily delay the proceedings or would prejudice the client or the opposing party, the court may deny the attorney’s motion to withdraw.
What to Do If Your Attorney Files a Motion to Withdraw?
It doesn’t happen every day, but you might wonder, “What happens if an attorney withdraws from a case?” First, decide whether you really want to continue working with an attorney who wants to withdraw from your case. Of course, it depends on the lawyer’s reasons for withdrawing.
Consider your options
It can be stressful and upsetting if your attorney wants to withdraw from your case. However, you should take this time to pause and consider what has happened and how you want to respond. Consider the following questions when deciding what to do when a lawyer withdraws from a case:
- Why does the lawyer want to withdraw from your case?
- If the lawyer wants to withdraw because of something you have done or failed to do, can you resolve the problem?
- If the lawyer wants to withdraw because of a conflict of interest in your case, is the conflict a minor one that you are comfortable with, and could you agree to waive your objection to the conflict?
- Do you really want to continue working with this attorney?
Determine your next steps
If you decide that you want to continue working with the attorney even though the attorney has asked to withdraw from your case, consider taking the following steps:
- Ask to meet with the attorney to discuss the reasons for withdrawing from your case.
- If the reason is something that you can resolve, such as non-payment of fees, explain how you intend to resolve the problem.
- If the reason for withdrawal is due to a conflict of interest and you are willing to waive any objection to the conflict, ask the attorney to allow you to sign a written waiver if he or she is willing to continue representing you.
- If your attorney will not agree to continue representing you and you believe the withdrawal is unfair or would harm your case, you should file an opposition to the motion to withdraw with the court.
- If the court sets the motion to withdraw for a hearing, appear in court and explain to the judge why you believe the attorney should not be permitted to withdraw from your case.
When you are faced with deciding what to do when your lawyer drops your case, remember that you have options and consider your response carefully. Many clients do not wish to continue working with an attorney who no longer wants to represent them. However, if the reason the attorney wants to withdraw is because of something you have done or failed to do, you may attempt to resolve the problem with your attorney. If the attorney wants to drop the case due to a conflict of interest, you will need to decide whether the conflict is a major conflict of interest or something minor that will not interfere with the case.
Whatever the reason, it can be stressful when your attorney wants to withdraw from representing you. Try to remain calm and carefully consider what is in your best interest given the new turn of events. If you want to continue working with the attorney, try the tips discussed above to resolve your attorney’s reasons for wanting to withdraw from your case.