Under what circumstances may a lawyer withdraw services?

When a California lawyer agrees to represent you in a legal matter, it involves a very serious commitment. For this reason, an attorney who believes that he or she cannot complete your case competently, without conflict of interest and/or in a timely manner should not agree to take your case in the first place. Whereas you have the right to discharge your lawyer for any reason, or for no reason, whenever you choose, your lawyer must have a reason to withdraw services. 

According to the American Bar Association, sometimes the law demands that an attorney withdraw services, and he or she has no choice in the matter. Under other circumstances, withdrawal is an option that your lawyer will have to decide independently. Absent of a legitimate reason, however, your attorney must generally see the matter through or face consequences.

If you enter into an agreement with a lawyer and then fail to live up to its terms, your attorney may withdraw. A lawyer also has the option to withdraw under the following circumstances: 

  • You misuse legal services.
  • You persist in fraudulent or criminal behavior. 
  • You take action with which the attorney fundamentally disagrees. 

However, only if the withdrawal does not affect your interest in a materially adverse way can it take place. 

If you suggest a course of action to your lawyer that involves unlawful activity or a violation of the professional rules of conduct, it does not automatically follow that your attorney must withdraw. However, if you demand that your lawyer take action that is illegal or unethical, he or she must then withdraw. This requires court approval if the lawyer represented you by appointment. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.