Lawyering is client-focused, and as with any customer-facing role, there are some people whose business is just not worth the money.
Your client can fire you at any moment, but unfortunately, the California bar does not afford you that same privilege. If you need to fire a difficult client, you must follow the Rules of Professional Conduct.
When you must terminate representation
There are three circumstances under which you have no choice but to end your attorney-client relationship:
- Your representation of your client violates rules concerning conflict of interest
- Your physical or mental health prevents you from providing adequate representation
- Your client insists on bringing an action without probable cause to injure or harass another
As the attorney seeking to withdraw, you must submit your reasons to the court without disclosing privileged information about your client.
When you may terminate representation
Even as a highly-trained professional, there may be some clients with whom you cannot make the attorney-client relationship work. Courts may permit you to withdraw of your own accord if:
- Your client wants you to argue for unwarranted and unsupported changes to existing law
- Your client seeks to engage in illegal conduct and expects you to act illegally or unethically
- Your client becomes unreasonably difficult to represent or fails to pay agreed-upon attorney fees and expenses
At the conclusion of your representation, you should advise your former client of upcoming deadlines, and you may have to retain documents pertaining to the case according to state or federal law.
By understanding how to end client relationships properly and competently, you can minimize your potential risk for legal malpractice claims in the future.