Motion to Withdraw

What Happens When An Attorney Withdraws From a Case?

What You Need to Know When an Attorney Withdraws From a Case

For most of us, even the most basic involvement in a legal case is cause for stress and frustration. However, this is amplified when your attorney withdraws from your case! While this can happen for a wide variety of reasons, it is often confusing and quite upsetting. Many people are left with questions as to how to proceed following a motion to withdraw. 

What happens when an attorney withdraws from a case? An attorney can withdraw from a case for a wide variety of reasons. Given a valid reason, the attorney must submit a motion to withdraw to the court. The judge presiding over the case will then either approve or deny the motion. If approved, the client must find a new attorney to take over their case. However, a judge may not always approve the motion to withdraw in which case the motion would go to court. 

As you can see from that brief summary, having an attorney withdraw from your case can be quite upsetting and frustrating. In addition to forcing you to find a new legal representative, a motion to withdraw will likely add several months to your already lengthy court case.

In this post, we will discuss a few of the many reasons an attorney may withdraw from a case. We will also share some insight into what to do if your attorney withdraws from your case. We hope this information sheds a light on a rather confusing aspect of the legal process.

Reasons an Attorney May Withdraw From a Case

Attorney Withdraws From a CaseThere are a wide variety of reasons why an attorney may withdraw from a case. However, it is important to note that your lawyer can not simply quit your case without valid reasoning. Here are a few of the most common reasons why an attorney may decide it is within their best interest to withdraw from a case thus declining or terminating representation.

The Attorney Can Not Provide Representation As Promised

Life happens. There may be times when an attorney must file a motion to withdraw due to circumstances outside their control. If the attorney is rendered unable to provide representation due to injury or illness, they must withdraw from the case. This injury or illness may be physical or mental but restricts them from performing their duties as outlined in the client-attorney contract.

This is perhaps the most uncommon reason a lawyer would file a motion to withdraw. In situations where illness or injury are the cause of your attorney’s withdrawal, they will likely hand your case over to a competent partner in their firm.

The Attorney Finds the Client Isn’t Being Truthful

When an attorney is representing you in court, they are putting their personal and professional reputation on the line. A lawyer can’t represent a client that has been found to be dishonest throughout the course of the legal proceedings.

If an attorney is made aware of the fact that their client has lied about situations or circumstances, or if they have falsely testified while under oath, the attorney must file a motion to withdraw. If the reason for the attorney’s motion to withdraw is of this nature, they will claim the motion to withdraw is based on “ethical obligations”.

Even in the most uncomfortable of circumstances, you must be honest during every portion of the legal process, including private conversations with your attorney. Not only will this prevent a withdrawal from your case but will also provide you with the best potential outcome.

The Client Starts Using a Different Attorney

One of the most common reasons an attorney files a motion to withdraw actually has little to do with them! Sometimes a client will decide to start working with a different attorney while they are in the middle of their case. For many reasons, this is not advised. However, you can read more about firing your lawyer before settlement here.

Even if the client is the one to initiate the change in representation, the attorney must file an official motion to withdraw which is, in turn, approved by the judge.

The Client Refuses to Pay Legal Fees Outlined in Contract

Before an attorney can begin to represent the client, they must first enter into an attorney-client contract. This contract outlines the specifics surrounding the case including the payment schedule. If the client fails or refuses to pay the legal fees as outlined in the contract, the attorney may withdraw from the case.

Typically, the attorney will provide several warnings requesting payment before they proceed with a motion to withdraw.

The Client Refuses to Listen to Attorney’s Legal Advice

There is a reason that a client seeks out the professional legal opinion of an attorney. However, sometimes the client may believe that they know the details of their case better than the lawyer. In these times, it may be tempting to refuse to listen to the attorney’s legal advice. 

You must remember that your lawyer has your best interests at heart. As a professional in this field, they are working towards your success and, in turn, their own. If an attorney advises their client to refrain from certain behaviors or actions, yet the client directly opposes this advice, the attorney may withdraw from the case.

The Client Breaches the Contract Signed at Start of Case

In addition to failing or refusing payment as agreed upon in the contract, there are other ways a client can breach this important contract. The attorney-client contract includes important information such as legal fee structure, the involvement of other lawyers and paralegals, and communication boundaries. 

This contract serves as a defining boundary between the client and the attorney and benefits both parties equally. If an attorney believes that the client has breached the contract, they may choose to withdraw from the case. It is important to note that a client can also terminate the working relationship if they feel the attorney has breached the contract.

The Client Asks Attorney to Violate Rules of Conduct

While the lawyer is contracted to represent their client in the legal case, they must also be sure to uphold their own reputation. If the client asks them to violate professional rules of conduct, or if the attorney believes that the client is abusing their services, the attorney may withdraw from the case. 

One of the most common examples of this is when the attorney believes that the client continues to engage in criminal activity or is using the lawyer’s representation to continue their criminal enterprise. At all times, the attorney must remember that their personal and professional reputation are at stake during each client they represent.

You can read more about what it means when a lawyer files a motion to withdraw here.

How Does an Attorney Withdraw From a Case?

An attorney must follow a careful process to withdraw from a case. This process generally includes the following steps:

  • Attorney Determines The Need for a Motion to Withdraw
  • Attorney Submits the Motion to Withdraw to the Court
  • Judge Notifies Client of Intention to Withdraw From the Case
  • Judge Accepts or Denies the Motion to Withdraw

 

It is important to note that a judge does not always accept the attorney’s motion to withdraw. If the judge does not accept the motion, it will proceed to court where the client and attorney will represent their perspective sides of the issue before a final decision is made.

What To Do If Your Attorney Files a Motion to Withdraw

If your attorney files a motion to withdraw from your case, you will likely be left with many questions. How do you proceed following this interruption in your case? Do you have any responsibilities to follow through with during this process? Depending on the circumstances surrounding your attorney’s motion to withdraw, they may provide you with insight into how to proceed. Fortunately, the path forward is rather clear if your attorney is less than helpful.

Determine Whether You Will Object to the Motion to Withdraw

When your attorney files a motion to withdraw from your case, you will be allowed to object. However, it is important to note that objection will result in the motion going to court. This will only delay your case further. It will likely be in your best interest to accept the motion and move forward with a new attorney. 

Contact a New Attorney to Take On Your Case

Once your attorney notifies you of their intention to withdraw from your case, it is important that you work to contact a new attorney. In order to avoid unnecessary delays in your case, you should begin working with your new legal representation as soon as possible.

Your current attorney must hand over any paperwork or information regarding your case. As the client, this is your property and you must obtain this information quickly to avoid delays.

After signing a contract with your new attorney, you are ready to get back to work on your legal case, hopefully arriving at a timely resolution.

While having an attorney withdraw from your case can be quite upsetting and overwhelming, it is important to remember that it may be in your best interest to work with a new lawyer. Work to find a Huntsville Attorney that is ready to aggressively represent you and keep your best interests at the forefront of your case moving forward!

Matt McWilliams
matt@mcwilliamsmedia.com

Matt has over 10 years of legal writing experience. He's worked and written for legal websites for serval websites including Truskett Law, Bruner Law, Jeffrey & Erwin, Gary Crews, PLLC., Deposition Academy, and Wagner & Lynch.