It does not happen very often, but when it does there may be specific reasons you should know about.
You might think that the client is the only one who can fire the attorney. Well actually the reverse is also true. The attorney can actually fire the client. However the mechanics of doing that are much more involved than when the client fires the attorney.
Let's say that a client has hired a personal injury attorney to represent them in their accident case here in New York. If during the course of litigation the client is somehow dissatisfied and wants to hire another attorney, it's a simple enough process to fire the attorney you currently have and take your file to the next lawyer.
What if instead, you think that things are going along well and one day the attorney calls you up and says he can no longer represent you? It's not as simple as him throwing his hands up in the air, giving you a piece of paper that says you are no longer his client, and you go elsewhere.
Let me explain how it works.
An attorney can withdraw from a medical malpractice case, an accident case and even a wrongful death case. Some of the reasons an attorney might want to withdraw from a case would involve a client who lies to the attorney, or significant personality differences that prevent the attorney from using his best judgment about what to do next in the case.
There have been instances where demanding clients have tried to direct what happens on a case and literally tie the attorney's hands and prevents him from doing what he is supposed to do. In other cases it may be impossible to retain the necessary experts to support your claim and as a result the attorney would have no choice but to withdraw since you can ethically not proceed forward without an expert.
In order for an attorney to be relieved from your case, he must file a written request with the court, known as a motion, that gives the client an opportunity to be heard before the judge handling the case. As long as the case is not on for trial or in the middle of trial, it is likely that the judge who is supervising the lawsuit will permit the attorney to withdraw.
As part of the order that allows the lawyer to withdraw from your case, the judge will give the client a certain period of time in which to find a new lawyer to represent him.
Many people mistakenly believe that once they hire a lawyer, the lawyer must do everything that the client says. If there are significant disagreements between counsel and client and those differences cannot be corrected, the attorney may have no choice but to withdraw as counsel.
Although the attorney will never use words such as "I'm firing my client," the practical reality is that when an attorney withdraws from your case, that's really what it means.