A client may discharge you at any time and for any reason. When it happens to you, be ready to write a letter to the client confirming that the client wants no further services from you and you won’t be providing them. Actually, you may want to say a bit more than that.
Don’t beat around the bush: Start off by confirming that the client discharged you from your representation and state specifically what communication you are confirming, i.e., “our conversation by phone on Tuesday, April 19, 2016” or “your email to me on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.”
When a client discharges you in a civil case involving litigation, you’ll want to include a reference to the case in which you were representing the client and the effective date of your discharge.
You should also state your understanding that the client has either hired a new attorney who will be
preparing and sending me a completed `substitution of attorneys’ form that he/she will serve on the opposing counsel and file with the court.
Or, if the client doesn’t have new attorney, state that you’ve prepared and enclosed a standard “substitution of attorneys” form that substitutes the client’s name for yours as attorney of record, and ask the client to review, sign, and return it to you in a specified number of days. You’ll then send a copy of it to opposing counsel.
Your letter should advise the client of any pending filing deadlines and scheduled discovery matters, hearings, trials, or conferences in the case.
If no litigation was involved, or litigation hasn’t yet started, you don’t need to include any reference to a substitution of attorney form in your letter. But if an opposing party is involved, you should at least give written notice to that party (or, if that party is represented, to that party’s counsel) .
At the end of the letter, offer to return all of the papers and other property that the client provided to you in connection with the case, at the client’s request. And if you have unearned fees other than true retainer fees, tell the client you’ll be refunding that amount within a specified period of time.
You can get a sample of this type of letter, as well as termination letters to use in other situations, in CEB’s California Client Communications Manual: Sample Letters and Forms, chap 7.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- Attorney Swap
- When the Party’s Over: What to Do with Client Files?
- It’s Not Over Until the Withdrawal Is Filed
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