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Brandon, Esq.
Brandon, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Has received a certificate of recognition from the California State Senate for his outstanding legal service.
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Hypothetical: A is represented by law firm in litigation.

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Hypothetical: A is represented by law firm in litigation. A pays attorneys' hourly fees. As trial approaches, A becomes concerned about the quality of her attorney's representation. A is current paying her legal bills to the tune of about $50k. Attorneys now want another $10,000 retainer. If W doesn't pay, what happens? Would attorneys petition to withdraw and if trial is less than a month away, would court postpone the trial to give A time to get new counsel? If the representation was poor and the fees unreasonable, does W have any recourse on the eve of trial short of getting new counsel and filing a malpractice action against first attorney?

Disciplinary Rule 2-110(A) states that a lawyer shall not withdraw from employment until he has taken reasonable steps to avoid foreseeable prejudice to the rights of his client, including giving due notice to his client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, delivering to the client all papers and property to which the client is entitled, and complying with applicable laws and rules. However, under Lincoln Ave. Industrial Park v. Norley (Super. Ct. 1996)and Phila. Eth. Op. 93-2 (1993)a failure to pay fees and expected costs of litigation presents a permissible basis for withdrawal, even though withdrawal may have an adverse effect on the client. So, in short, the attorney would petition to withdraw and the court would likely grant it. However, it is up the court on whether or not the attorney would be released. If the attorney was not released, the attorney would be required to provide representation and then could later bring a claim against "A" for attorneys fees.

However, if the court granted the withdrawal, "A" would then have to make a motion for an extension of time, where either the parties would be able to sign an agreement granting such time, or the court, on cause shown, would extend the time within which the trial would commence.

Charging exorbitant fees or over billing is considered to be attorney misconduct and could thus be a form of malpractice or a breach of fiduciary duty. However, to successfully sue a a lawyer for inappropriate billing, "A" would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt how much the case has cost him in terms of legal fees and other expenses, and show that the lawyer did not act properly at some stage during the process. This will be very hard to do if the attorney can show all of the hours worked as well as show a retainer outlining the expense per hour of the case.

So, in short "A" may report the attorney to the Pennsylvania bar as well as sue for malpractice. However, only the court can force the attorney to stay on the case, or pay back any unearned fees.

Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further. If you do not require any further assistance, I would be most grateful if you would remember to provide my service a positive rating, as this is the only way I will receive credit for assisting you.

Have a wonderful rest of your day.

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