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Can a lawyer change from contingency to a $1500 retainer based on my medical condition?

Charleston, SC |

Civil litigation against house seller for non-disclosure. Attorney agreed on contingency, 6 months into case, said he didn't think I would physically make it through depositions or hearings because of severe PTSD related conversion disorder seizures. He wanted $1500 in case I didn't make it through the process. Took 10 months before I actually got a contract sent and it stated $5000 as a retainer.... was told by someone it was a violation of ethics regarding contract and a violation of civil liberties regarding fee based on my disabilities...any truth? I was fired by him the day after I got emailed a contract!

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Attorney answers 2


Parties to a coract are always free to rengotiate their contract, and that's largely true of lawyers and their clients.

Clients are always able to fire their lawyer, for any reason. Lawyers have less freedowm, and have a lot of latitude in who they represent, but state ethical rules prevent certain thigns, and one of those things is dumping a client when the timing prejudices their case. If the timing doesn't prejudice the client, then lawyers aren't forced to represent anyone. It's also not all that common for business litigation to be on a contingency basis rather than hourly, since the liabiity isn't a slam dunk like it iften is in the case of personal injury cases.

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.


This is an issue contract and ethics. It has nothing to do with civil liberties.

So you are saying you signed an agreement and six months into the attorney wants to change the terms? Then, because you did not agree to the new terms, he decided to withdraw from the representation? If so, the attorney may have violated various contract and ethical duties.

If you have a contingency agreement the attorney can only withdraw under the terms of that agreement. So was the withdrawal allowed under the terms of the agreement or not? If not, he cannot just "fire" a client because the client refuses to agree to new terms.

Provide more facts because your post is not entirely clear.

This answer is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice regarding your question and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.



all we had was a verbal agreement to take it on contingency, even asking several times over the course of the 10 months he had the case, I never was sent a fee agreement. on the 9th month, is when we talked on the phone and he decided he wanted to have a $1500 retainer because of my seizures, he didnt think I would survive the stress of the depositions or hearings. The 10th month he finally sent me an agreement and asked for $5000! Then fired me the next day. No agreement was ever signed..nothing was ever filed, he did nothing! just took up 10 months and put me closer to the statute of limitations...presently trying to find another attorney. Put over $150,000 cash into this house, pay the mortgage every month..and haven't been able to live in it for nearly 3 years...uninhabitable and in danger of collapse.

Robert John Murillo

Robert John Murillo


This sounds like a dubious attorney. In theory you could claim that you have a binding oral agreement for contingency, but if he does not agree you would have to sue him over this claim. Sorry and good luck on finding a new local attorney.