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How do I formally fire an attorney in Texas?

Marble Falls, TX |

I need it to stand up in court. I emailed her and fired her and she responded saying that my retainer was non-refundable. I let her know I was going to the Texas State Bar to complain B/C she never answered emails or calls and didn't even show up in court and then charged me for it! I represented myself against CPS while she as "in the bathroom"! Will the email stand up? I just received a certified letter from her saying that she is taking me to court to ask to not represent me anymore and it is in two days-too late to send a certified letter. HELP!

Attorney Answers 2

  1. You do not state whether or not you signed a fee agreement with your lawyer. If you did, then that is a contract and it will control the relationship. However, you can terminate an attorney at any time. Further, there is no such thing as a non-refundable retainer. If the retainer has not been consumed by the legal services provided at the point of termination then the unused portion must be refunded. It sounds like the attorney has sent you a letter notifying you of his/her intent to withdraw as your attorney. So, it sounds like he/she acknowledges that the relationship is terminated. There are four separate issues here. First is termination of the attorney/client relationship. Sounds like you have accomplished that. Second is the withdrawal of your attorney as attorney of record for you. That is what the attorney is trying to accomplish by the hearing that is set. You firing the lawyer does not release the lawyer from the case. That has to be done by a court order. Third is the refund of any unused retainer, if any. That will not be dealt with at the hearing that is set. The only thing the judge will do is either permit withdrawal or deny it. The retainer issue is a contractual dispute between you and the lawyer and you may have to file suit to get any unused retainer. Fourth is the ethical violation, if any, of the attorney in allegedly failing to communicate with you and failing to appear in court on your behalf. You can file a grievance against the attorney through the State Bar of Texas. That website will walk you through the process.

    DISCLAIMER: This is not specific legal advice and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.

  2. If you terminate your attorney engagement, but the attorney had enrolled as counsel for you in some legal proceeding, the attorney has to provide the court notice of withdrawal as your attorney. Otherwise the court would still consider the attorney to be your attorney. So, the filing of a motion to withdraw as counsel is not unusual.

    Whether a retainer is non-refundable may well be addressed in the fee agreement you had with the attorney, or it may a matter for some other tribunal to consider. An attorney's fee has to be reasonable under the Texas Ethics Rules. There are a number of factors set out in the Rules and in case law. You can review the Ethics rules at the web address below:

    Texas Ethics Rules

    If you feel that the attorney has overcharged or otherwise did not treat you appropriately, you can consider filing a grievance with the Texas State Bar. You can review the grievance procedure at the following web link:

    State Bar of Texas grievance process web site:

    Bottom line: It appears that the attorney is acknowledging that she has been terminated, so that does not appear to be an issue. The fact that she has filed a motion to withdraw as your counsel so indicates. Now, whether she earned her fee is an entirely different matter....

    Good luck.

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