LEO: Attorney/Client - Withdrawal as LE Op. 974
Attorney/Client - Withdrawal as Attorney-Nonpayment of Fees.
October 9, 1987
A lawyer represented a client in a divorce case. After depositions and
hearings took place, the client ceased communications with the lawyer's
office and failed to appear at any further court hearings. The lawyer
scheduled a hearing to withdraw as counsel, but the court refused to allow
the lawyer to do so because he was unable to serve notice on his client. A
final decree resulting in judgment against the client for spousal support
arrearages and a monetary award in the divorce matter was entered in the
circuit court. Earlier in the divorce matter, however, a property issue
relative to the marriage arose from a ruling by the court which formed the
basis for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia.
A writ was granted and briefs filed, although oral argument was not yet
scheduled. Again, no communication was received by the lawyer from the
client. Cooperation of the client was not necessary to effectively
prosecute the appeal. The client also owed the lawyer a substantial amount
of legal fees which it appeared would not be paid voluntarily.
It is not improper, given the above, for the lawyer to move to withdraw
since the client has failed to fulfill his obligations relative to the
fee. Whether or not the lawyer may actually withdraw is a matter to be
decided by the court. [ DR:2-108(B)(3); DR:2-108(C)]
It is improper, should the lawyer not be allowed to withdraw, for the
attorney to refrain from further participation in the appeal so that it
may be dismissed. [ DR:6-101(B)]
It is not improper, should it be determined that a gross imposition has
been made upon the lawyer's practice due to the client's failure to pay
the fee, for the lawyer to file a suit for his fees during the pendency of
the appeal if the attorney is granted permission to withdraw as counsel. [
Committee Opinion October 9, 1987
See also LE Op. 1117, and LE Op. 1325.