When you hire a lawyer to represent you in a legal matter, you trust that they will use their expertise and experience to help you achieve the best possible outcome. However, not all cases end in a settlement or favorable verdict. In some cases, a lawyer may choose to withdraw from a case. This can leave clients wondering if a lawyer can really take their case and withdraw if it doesn’t settle.

The answer is yes, a lawyer can withdraw from a case if it doesn’t settle. However, there are certain rules and ethical considerations that lawyers must follow before withdrawing from a case.

One of the main reasons why a lawyer might withdraw from a case is due to a breakdown in communication or a disagreement with the client. If a lawyer and client cannot work together effectively, it can be difficult to achieve a positive outcome. In this case, the lawyer must notify the client of their intention to withdraw and provide reasonable notice to allow the client to find a new lawyer.

Another reason a lawyer may withdraw is due to a conflict of interest. If the lawyer realizes that they have a conflict of interest that prevents them from representing the client, they must withdraw from the case. For example, if the lawyer learns that they have a personal or business relationship with the opposing party or if the lawyer previously represented the opposing party, they would need to withdraw from the case.

Lawyers may also withdraw from a case if the client fails to pay their legal fees or expenses. In this case, the lawyer must notify the client of their intention to withdraw and provide reasonable notice to allow the client to pay their outstanding bills or find a new lawyer.

It’s important to note that lawyers cannot simply withdraw from a case without following certain procedures. A lawyer must follow the rules of their state bar association and may need to seek approval from a judge before withdrawing from a case. Additionally, a lawyer cannot withdraw from a case in the middle of a trial or hearing without the court’s permission.

If your lawyer does withdraw from your case, it can be a frustrating and stressful experience. However, it’s important to understand that lawyers have ethical and legal obligations to follow. If your lawyer has withdrawn from your case, it’s crucial to find a new lawyer as soon as possible. This will ensure that you have adequate representation and can continue pursuing a favorable outcome in your legal matter.

A lawyer can take your case and withdraw if it doesn’t settle, but only under certain circumstances. If you’re unsure whether your lawyer can withdraw from your case or have questions about your legal representation, it’s important to speak with a qualified attorney who can provide guidance and advice. By understanding the rules and ethical considerations surrounding lawyer withdrawals, you can make informed decisions about your legal representation and protect your rights and interests.

Video Transcript

In this video, you will get answers to these questions:

  • Can a lawyer take your case and withdraw if it doesn’t settle?
  • How can you make sure a lawyer won’t withdraw from your case?
  • What can you do to reduce the chances of your attorney withdrawing?
  • What are your rights if an attorney withdraws from your case because it doesn’t settle?
  • Questions to ask to help protect you from having a contingency attorney withdraw from your case

Can a lawyer take your case and withdraw if it doesn’t settle? That is the question I am answering today. I am Aaron Hall, an attorney for business owners and entrepreneurial companies.

What Is a Contingency Attorney?

So imagine you have a case and you hire a contingency attorney. Now, what is a contingency attorney? That is an attorney to who you are not paying a fixed fee or an hourly fee. The attorney is getting paid contingent on the outcome of the case. So, in other words, if you don’t win, the attorney doesn’t get paid, or if the case doesn’t settle, the attorney doesn’t get paid. That is a contingency fee attorney. You typically see it in auto accident cases, medical malpractice, and often it is a case where there is clearly an injury. There is insurance on the other side, and the question is largely, “How much is the insurance company going to pay out?” So you decide that you don’t have the money to pay hourly for an attorney, so you decide to give the attorney a percentage of what you recover in the case; that is called a contingency attorney.

What Is the Problem If an Attorney Drops Your Case After Sending a Few Demand Letters?

Now the problem is, what happens if you hire an attorney, that attorney sends a couple of demand letters and does a little bit of negotiation, and it doesn’t settle. Well, the attorney might say, “Hey, you know what? I figured I’d put a few hours in, but I am not going to trial on this case.” That could be frustrating for you. You thought you were hiring an attorney who would work this case, and now by the attorney withdrawing from the case, you are concerned that it sends a message to the defense, the other side, the insurance company, or whoever you were making a demand on that your case isn’t very strong. In fact, your case is so weak that no attorney will even represent you.

So you are thinking to yourself, I really want to make sure the attorney I select, who will work for me, is willing to be with me in the long haul, not just send off a couple of demand letters and see if they get a quick return. Now think about it. If you are a greedy attorney, and I am not saying all attorneys are greedy, but if you are a greedy attorney, you might say, “Hey, yeah, I’ll take a case, send off a couple of demand letters, see if I can negotiate a quick settlement, and then I get a percentage of whatever I recover.” In other words, financially, an attorney is incentivized to get a quick settlement.

How Does an Attorney Think About Whether to Take a Contingency Case?

Let’s say, for example, you are an attorney, and you put in three hours of time, and let’s say, you are getting one-third of whatever the client recovers, so you get a settlement offer from the other side for $20,000 after putting in three hours of time, which means the attorney’s portion is one-third of that. I should have picked a number that is easily divisible by three, but let’s say it is a little bit under $7,000. All right, so three hours of time would be around $7,000. That is good money. So as you can see, an attorney will think, Hey, let’s take this offer.

Imagine though, by going to trial, you might be able to recover $80,000. But to go to trial, the attorney is going to have to put in 150 hours. Well, one-third of $80,000, divided over 150 hours, is a very low hourly rate. In other words, you can see the difference for an attorney. Financially, an attorney who gets a quick settlement can make some good money, but an attorney who has to go to trial may get a low hourly rate if you win, and if you lose, they don’t get anything.

So unfortunately, there are attorneys out there who will be looking out for their own best interest, not as much for their clients, and be willing to do some quick settlements but not be willing to fight this out to trial. I am not saying all attorneys are like this, and let’s face it, sometimes cases cannot be justified going to trial. Here is what I mean. I one time had a client come to me and say, “Hey, I’ve got this case.” Let’s say it is $20,000. “Would you be willing to take it on contingency?” Now, I usually don’t take cases on contingency. I said to this client, “There is no way I am going to go to trial on this case, but if you want, maybe we could send a couple of letters and see if there is anything here, and maybe we can get something of a settlement. And maybe we do some sort of hybrid arrangement where instead of it being 100% contingency, I am getting an hourly rate at a discounted rate.” So let’s say an attorney who is at $800 an hour would agree to a half rate, so that is $400 an hour. And then also a contingency fee, which might be, say, 15% of whatever is recovered. That is a little example. Sometimes attorneys will do a hundred dollars an hour plus a larger percentage. But that gives you an idea of what a hybrid attorney fee is.

Okay, so you understand the difficulty here with contingency fee agreements. I will put a little link in the notes below to some warnings I have for people who are thinking about hiring an attorney on a contingency basis, just so that at least you are educated before you agree to a representation agreement with a contingency attorney.

Can a Lawyer Take Your Case and Withdraw If It Doesn’t Settle?

All right, so can a lawyer take your case and withdraw if the case doesn’t settle? The answer is yes. Under rules throughout the United States, an attorney can withdraw from your case. Now, there are some rules about how that gets done, but attorneys can withdraw.

How can you make sure an attorney won’t withdraw from your case? There is not a simple way to make sure the attorney won’t withdraw, but you could have some agreements regarding under which circumstances the attorney can withdraw. I will warn you though, attorneys are crafty. They are paid to be able to get around language. So if you are having an attorney draft an agreement with you, most times, attorneys are going to be able to draft a contract so that the attorney can get out of it if needed. In fact, many state attorney’s rules permit an attorney to get out for certain reasons, regardless of what the contract says.

What Can You Do to Reduce the Chances of an Attorney Withdrawing from Your Case?

What can you do to reduce the chances of an attorney withdrawing from your case? I would recommend asking an attorney the following questions:

  • What is your policy on withdrawal in the event of unsuccessful settlement negotiations?
  • Can you provide a written agreement that outlines your commitment to my case?
  • What is the likelihood of going to trial, and how will you prepare for it?
  • How many cases similar to mine have you handled?
  • How many of those cases went to trial?
  • How many clients have you withdrawn from?

By asking these questions and some follow-up questions, you will probably get a sense of the attorney’s commitment to the case, and what the attorney’s evaluation will be as far as potentially withdrawing from the case. Not every case is worth going to trial. And an attorney who is committed to transparency and openness will tell you whether your case is likely to go to trial and will tell you whether the attorney is willing to take it to trial. In small cases, it might not be worth going to trial.

What Are Your Rights If an Attorney Withdraws from Your Case?

All right. What are your rights if an attorney withdraws from your case? For example, let’s say the case doesn’t settle, and the attorney says, “You know what? I can’t keep representing you. I no longer have confidence in your case. I can’t put the time into it for health reasons or for other commitment reasons. I can’t keep going on the case.” Whatever it is. What are your rights if an attorney withdraws from the case? You have a right to your file—those are the documents in the case. You have a right to have the attorney represent you for a reasonable period of time until you can get another attorney. Now, you are not going to be able to abuse this, but this is to prevent an attorney from withdrawing right before a motion.

Can a Lawyer Withdraw from a Case Right Before Your Trial?

Or let’s say you are going to trial tomorrow, and the attorney says, “You know what? I am withdrawing. I just can’t put in the time.” Well, that is unreasonable. Courts are not going to allow that but don’t think you are going to be able to get an attorney to work for you for free for a number of weeks. The whole idea is if there is something big coming up, the attorney can’t withdraw right before that. So you have a right to representation for a reasonable period of time until you can find another attorney. And reasonable period is decided by state ethics rules and the courts, and what the attorney needs to do in the meantime is also decided by the court and by those rules.

Where Can I Go with Questions About Hiring a Contingency Attorney?

Alright, so that is some general guidance on hiring a contingency attorney and trying to protect yourself. You can consult with the Bar Association usually or the State Ethics Board if you have any questions on this, and that would be the board in your particular state. Sometimes the court has a self-help line that you can contact there as well.

I am Aaron Hall, an attorney for business owners and entrepreneurial companies. If you find this sort of educational content, you are welcome to subscribe to this channel. You can like this video if you want more content like it, or it thumbs down if you didn’t find this helpful. Regardless, thanks for watching today, and I invite you to watch more educational videos which help you identify issues to discuss with your attorney and avoid common legal problems.