Can Divorce Lawyers Fire Their Clients?
Nine times out of ten, when an attorney and their client part ways prematurely, it’s a choice made by the client rather than the attorney. Clients fire their attorneys for all sorts of reasons, some professional, others more personal. While it’s more uncommon for a lawyer to fire (or drop) a client, but it does happen.
When a civil or criminal attorney wants to drop a client, it’s called “withdrawing from the case”. An attorney can request (or be forced) to withdraw from a case only if they have a valid reason to do so, or if there are ethical violations resulting from their continued involvement in a case.
Acceptable Reasons For Firing A Client
While it’s extremely rare for any lawyer to submit a motion to withdraw from an active case, there are a handful of valid reasons that one would do so, including:
Failure to pay fees. Regardless of whether a client signed a contract with their lawyer prior to representation, the client is obligated to pay their attorney for any services performed.
Conflicting case strategies. When a client and their attorney cannot reach an agreement regarding case strategy, it is often in the client’s best interest for the attorney to withdraw.
Criminal, unethical, or fraudulent activity by the client. An lawyer cannot help a client commit activities which may be deemed criminal, unethical, or fraudulent.
Client’s failure to fulfill obligations. A successful attorney-client relationship involves a good deal of communication on behalf of both parties. If the client is failing to provide their attorney with requested information or documents, the attorney may seek to withdraw from the case.
Client consent. If the attorney receives permission from their client to withdraw from the case, they may do so.
Personality conflicts. When attorneys and clients are unable to get along amicably, the likeliness of a successful case outcome diminishes dramatically, and it is often in the best interests of both parties for the attorney to withdraw from the case.
A lawyer may also be forced to withdraw from a case if they are found to have an ethical conflict resulting from reasons such as:
- The attorney is violating a law or the rules of professional conduct.
- The attorney has been suspended from practicing law by a disciplinary committee.
- The client wishes to terminate their relationship with the attorney.
- The attorney is physically or mentally incapable of representing their client.
- The attorney or their firm is representing an adversary party in the case. This is also known as a conflict of interest.
Again, these situations are very uncommon. Attorneys typically make every effort to determine if their will be any conflicts of interest, moral or ethical conflicts, and personality conflicts before taking on a new client.
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