Understanding the Circumstances of Lawyer-Client Termination

Hiring a lawyer is often a crucial step when dealing with legal matters, as they provide valuable guidance and representation. However, it is important to remember that the relationship between a lawyer and a client is not always permanent. In certain situations, a lawyer may decide to terminate their professional engagement with a client. This article aims to shed light on the circumstances under which a lawyer can fire a client and the implications it may have.

Lack of Cooperation

One of the primary reasons a lawyer may choose to fire a client is due to a lack of cooperation. Collaboration and open communication between a lawyer and client are vital for a successful legal representation. If a client repeatedly fails to provide necessary information, disregards advice, or hampers the progress of the case, the lawyer may consider terminating the relationship.

Non-Payment of Fees

Legal services come at a cost, and clients are generally expected to pay their attorney’s fees as per the agreed-upon terms. If a client consistently fails to honor their financial obligations, such as non-payment of fees or refusal to provide necessary funds for case expenses, it can strain the attorney-client relationship. In such situations, a lawyer may be justified in ending the professional engagement.

Conflicts of Interest

Lawyers have a professional duty to act in the best interests of their clients. However, conflicts of interest can arise that make it challenging for lawyers to fulfill this obligation. If a lawyer discovers that their continued representation may compromise their duty to other clients, violate legal ethics, or create conflicts within the case, they may be forced to terminate the relationship.

Ethical Violations

Attorneys are bound by a code of ethics that governs their professional conduct. If a client engages in illegal activities, provides false information, or requests the lawyer to act unethically, it puts the attorney in a difficult position. In such cases, a lawyer may choose to fire the client to avoid potential legal and ethical repercussions.

Breakdown of Trust

The attorney-client relationship is built on trust, and a breakdown in trust can significantly impact the effectiveness of legal representation. If a client consistently misrepresents facts, withholds information, or undermines the lawyer’s ability to represent them, it can lead to a loss of trust. In such instances, a lawyer may deem it necessary to terminate the relationship to protect their professional reputation and maintain their integrity.

Implications of Being Fired by a Lawyer

When a lawyer decides to terminate the attorney-client relationship, it can have significant consequences for the client. These may include delays in the legal process, the need to find a new attorney, and potential financial implications. Additionally, depending on the circumstances surrounding the termination, the client may need to address any underlying issues that led to the dismissal in order to proceed with their case effectively.


While it is crucial to establish a positive and cooperative relationship with your lawyer, there are situations where a lawyer may choose to fire a client. Lack of cooperation, non-payment of fees, conflicts of interest, ethical violations, and breakdown of trust are some common reasons that can lead to the termination of the attorney-client relationship. Understanding these circumstances can help clients navigate their legal matters effectively and maintain a harmonious working relationship with their attorneys.

Video Transcript

When Can a Lawyer Fire You?

So you are the client. You have hired a lawyer. Can the lawyer fire you? A lawyer certainly can fire you, but it will depend on two things. The rules within the representation agreement, so the contract provisions within the agreement that you sign with the lawyer and the law.

For example, the contract probably says something like, at any time, the lawyer can discontinue services for you. The lawyer is still entitled to payment through that date, but the lawyer can terminate services for any reason permitted by law and within the restrictions allowed by law.

What Does the Law Say?

So then we go to law and say, what does the law say? Well, most states have a law that says a lawyer cannot quit right before something really big and where you don’t have time to hire another lawyer. So say, for example, it is a day before trial, and the trial looks like it is going to take ten days and the lawyer decides, you know what? I just don’t want to put in the work for this. I did this case on a contingency basis, and I don’t want to give up ten days of work. We are not going to recover enough. Can the lawyer quit and just fire you and say you are on your own? Most states say, “No, absolutely not.” Now, if it is a few weeks before trial and you would have time to hire another lawyer, and that lawyer gets up to speed and get ready for trial, that may be reasonable. There isn’t a cut-and-dry line, like a certain number of days prior to a hearing or a trial, that a lawyer can terminate a client. It all depends on the circumstances.

What is the General Rule?

And in general, the rule is, is there enough time for the client to hire another attorney and get them up to speed? The client might say, “I can’t find another attorney because they will want more money, and I am out of money.” Well, that usually is not a consideration. And now the question is, hypothetically, could an attorney get up to speed in time? If the client can’t afford to hire an attorney or won’t pay, you can’t force an attorney to work for free. So usually, what is important is, whether is there enough time for the client to hire another attorney? If so, then the attorney can terminate services for any reason permitted by the attorney’s contract with the client.


If you found this video helpful and you would like more educational videos like this, feel free to subscribe to this channel. If you have other questions, put them in the comments below. I am Aaron Hall, an attorney for business owners and entrepreneurial companies. You can learn more about me at aaronhall.com. And if you would like to sign up for our free resources, go to aaronhall.com/free. It was great to be with you here today.