I have paid this attorney $7500 to date and have not seen the work but have been seeing the invoices stating the work that has been done. He does not send me copies of the motion filed. I received an email from his paralegal after business hours on Friday stating the withdrawal on Tuesday since Monday is Labor Day. My court hearing is Wednesday. The reason is for a prebill not paid. I feel this is unjust, unfair, and corrupt. What are my options?
Real Estate Attorney
I agree with the other answers that if you have not paid the attorney as agreed in the fee agreement you signed, the attorney is entitled to ask the court to allow him to withdraw. BUT, an attorney appearing on behalf of a client in a court proceeding must follow the rules to be able to withdraw. If there is nothing more than what you have described, those rules have not been followed. The attorney is required to give you written notice of his intent to withdraw before he can file a motion with the court. If you haven't objected and cured the problem within the notice period, the attorney can file a motion to withdraw and serve you with the motion. You are then entitled to file an objection to the motion with the court explaining why you do not think the attorney should be allowed to withdraw. The court then has to make a decision on whether to allow the witndrawal.
Frankly, many judges would not allow a withdrawal, even if proper notice has been given, if to do so would delay the court's calendar. In the scenario you described, with a hearing secheduled for Wednesday and if you let the court know you have not been given prior notice of intent to withdraw, the court could deny the motion and force the attorney to appear, or the court could delay the hearing date to give you time to get new counsel. Which is in your best interest is something that can't be determined here. But your best bet at this point, other than trying to talk to the attorney and convincing the attorney to appear on your behalf, is to be at the courthouse when it opens on Tuesday, have a written objection in hand to file with the court clerk, file the objection and take a copy to the judge's office. Be prepared to appear at the hearing on Wednesday if the judge's office has not already notified you not to appear, and ask the court for a continuance based on lack of notice of your attorney's attempt to withdraw.
This answer is for general purposes only, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Lawsuit / Dispute Attorney
Check your retainer agreement. Many say no court attendance unless account is paid in full.
Why is it unfair, unjust and corrupt for a professional to decline to work without getting paid, especially when the retainer probably specifies your account must be paid up before any court appearance will be made.
Your attorney can withdraw by order to show cause or motion on notice. Either way, you will have notice of the application to withdraw, and the hearing will be scheduled for before your next court date, even if only a day before. The application to withdraw will include an application for a stay of proceedings. This can be for as little as 30 days or as long as 90 days. There will be no activity on your case during the stay, during which time you should be able to retain new counsel. The hearing scheduled for the next day will not happen.
I am a co-author of WEITZ ON AUTOMOBILE LITIGATION: THE NO FAULT HANDBOOK. The opinions expressed in this answer are not intended to be taken as legal advice. These opinions are based on New York practice. I may be contacted at 212-553-9300.
Divorce / Separation Lawyer
Obviously a lawyer is going to withdraw if you have not fully paid him. Would you keep going to work if your employer didn't pay you? Of course not. When you chose not to pay all your bill, yoiu already knew he would quit at some point.
Having said that, a lawyer does have to follow state bar and court rules for withdrawal. If the lawyer has entered an appearance in court, he cannot withdraw without proper notice and an order from the judge.
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