Any competent person has an absolute right to fire their attorney — but what happens when an attorney decides to “fire” a client?
Confusion over when the attorney-client relationship began and ended can lead to major conflicts. If an attorney doesn’t handle the situation carefully, they could seriously disadvantage or injure the client and their case — and that could lead to allegations of legal malpractice.
When can an attorney withdraw their representation of a client?
There are numerous situations that may cause an attorney to disengage a particular client. These include times when:
- There would be no material adverse consequences for the client
- The client insists on actions that are either fraudulent or criminal
- The client misused the attorney’s services in a prior incident
- The attorney has a moral or conscious objection to the client’s actions
- The client and the attorney are fundamentally at odds with each other
- The client won’t comply with the agreement made about the attorney’s representation
- The attorney has a mental or physical problem that affects their representation
However, withdrawal of representation doesn’t relieve an attorney of all responsibilities toward their client. They still must preserve attorney-client privilege by keeping private anything the client has already confided.
In addition, the attorney must also take “all reasonable steps” to minimize any adverse consequences the client might suffer from the withdrawal of their services — and that means giving the client appropriate notice.
What if your attorney left you without representation at a critical time?
Attorneys are human — and some of them act on impulse without really thinking about their obligations. If you were abandoned by your attorney at a critical point in your legal case and put at a distinct disadvantage, you may have been the victim of legal malpractice.