Bar Counsel Notes: Termination of Representation

Lawyer's client's family matter (divorce) has ended with the Judgment being issued by the District Court. Accordingly, is Lawyer's representation of client now complete or must Lawyer file a Motion to Withdraw or another pleading with the court?

In most such family matters, Lawyer will not need to file any withdrawal pleading, and the court clerk's Docket Record will show and confirm that the Judgment has been so issued. At least two caveats, however, to remember:

a.) Lawyer should be sure to confirm by a closing letter that the client is clearly so informed and agrees that Lawyer's representation has concluded and is done (see "reasonable notice (of lawyer's termination of representation) to the client" requirement in MRPC 1.16(d)). In fact, both the engagement and closing letters should be clear as to the scope of Lawyer's representation. Therefore, if that representation of the client is to go further, e.g. Post Judgment Motions or any other appellate matters, Lawyer needs to be sure client knows and has agreed to those terms and the amount of the respective fees involved for each stage; and

b.) In any Post Judgment filings that may occur and in which the Lawyer is involved, to avoid a possible violation of MRPC 4.2 (Communications with Person Represented by Counsel), Lawyer should be sure to properly confirm whether the opposing party is still represented by any earlier (or replacement) counsel or is now appearing pro se. See Advisory Opinion #136.

*Disclaimer: The Informal Ethics Advisory Notes from Bar Counsel are intended as outreach by the office of Bar Counsel for the use and benefit of the Maine bar. These scenarios are drawn from actual telephone calls received by the attorneys in the office of Bar Counsel in the course of providing informal advice on the Code of Professional Responsibility, known as Bar Counsel's "Ethics Hotline." The particular advice in each case is limited with reference to the particular factual situation related by the inquiring attorney who must be inquiring about his or her own conduct or the conduct of a member of his or her firm. We do not provide any advice to one attorney about the conduct of another attorney unless they are members of the same law firm. In the telephone opinions, we usually explore and discuss additional factual variables. However, I have attempted to pare down these factual scenarios to make the email newsletter more readable and useful in a general sense. Obviously, that creates the risk that slight variations on the facts, to a learned reader, may give rise to a different analysis and conclusion.