Bar Counsel Notes: Withdrawal from Representation


For over a six-month period, Client C has ignored Attorney A's monthly invoices and failed to make any payment on the outstanding balance of Attorney A's legal fees of $500 concerning C's still pending real estate (boundary dispute) matter. May A withdraw from further representation based upon C's failure to pay her legal fees?


Yes, assuming the facts confirm A's compliance with M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.16(b)(5), (c) and (d), as may be applicable to the facts, she may withdraw from representation of C. That is, under Rule 1.16(b)(5), A must first give C "... reasonable warning that (A) will withdraw unless the (payment) obligation is fulfilled." However, if A's representation of C in this boundary dispute involves a proceeding filed in court, under Rule 1.16(c), C must first seek and obtain court approval to withdraw. Finally, under Rule 1.16(d), C must also allow "...time for employment of other counsel."

*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.