What steps should a lawyer take if they withdraw from representing the client, that is, if they can no longer act for the client?

The lawyer who withdraws from the solicitor-client relationship should take precautions to protect the client's interests. The lawyer who withdraws from employment should act so as to minimize expense and avoid prejudice to the client, doing everything reasonably possible to facilitate the transfer to the client's new lawyer. There are duties imposed upon the lawyer following withdrawal which facilitate the return of the file to the client and/or to transfer of the file to another lawyer.  

Under what circumstances may a lawyer decide to withdraw from representing (no longer act for) the client?

There are certain circumstances where a lawyer may withdraw and other circumstances where the Code of Professional Conduct imposes a duty on the lawyer to withdraw. Some examples of circumstances in which a lawyer may withdraw include but are not limited to: 

  • The lawyer perceives a serious loss of confidence on the part of the client that affects the lawyer’s ability to represent the client;
  • The lawyer is deceived by the client;
  • The client refuses to accept and act upon the advice of lawyer on a significant issue; or
  • The lawyer is unable to obtain instructions from the client.

Under what circumstances must a lawyer withdraw from (no longer act for) the client?

Some examples of circumstances under which a lawyer must withdraw include but are not limited to:

  • The client fires the lawyer;
  • The client instructs the lawyer to do something that goes against the lawyer’s professional ethics or the direction of the Court;
  • The client is guilty of dishonourable conduct in the proceedings or taking a position for malicious reasons;
  • A conflict of interest arises; or
  • The lawyer is not competent to handle the matter.

Can a client terminate their lawyer’s services?

The client may terminate the solicitor-client relationship at will. However, the client's right to have the file information returned following the lawyers' withdrawal or termination is subject to the lawyer's right to a solicitor's lien.