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When lawyers act unprofessionally in withdrawing from a case

Any lawyer who believes that his or her rights are paramount to those of a client who is being legally represented is flatly in the wrong business.

And likely to get in a fair amount of trouble.

The legal publication California Lawyer recently published a set of bookend articles focusing upon truncated client/counsel relationships, specifically, those that end when an attorney withdraws from a matter, is fired by the client is replaced by new counsel.

The magazine centrally posits this bottom line regarding the respective prerogatives of a client and attorney when a legal relationship ends: “The most important thing for the attorney to remember,” states the journal, “is that the client’s rights come first.”

Many attorneys forget this, and they often pay a heavy price for that forgetfulness. High numbers of legal malpractice filings feature clients’ claims that their former attorneys acted in one or more ways that violated trust and fell short of complying with their professional responsibilities as advocates.

The number of ways that a California attorney can be adjudged by a court or state bar officials as having been derelict in his or her professionalism and in carrying out client-related duties are truly many.

Summarily withdrawing from a client matter without the client’s or court’s permission is one such way. Revealing confidential client information pursuant to a would-be withdrawal is another breach of client trust that can yield materially adverse consequences. Courts, too, frown heavily upon lawyers who do not timely and comprehensively turn over all relevant case materials to a client when withdrawing from a matter or who, as noted by the American Lawyer, “hold a former client’s file hostage over a fee dispute.”

Clients who have questions or concerns upon ending a relationship with an attorney might well have a valid legal malpractice claim to pursue. A proven California malpractice attorney can help them review relevant information and proceed in a manner that optimally advances their best interests.