Can an attorney refuse to sign a substitution of attorney for unpaid fees? 37 Answers as of June 03, 2013

My wife's attorney has stated that he is refusing to sign a substitution of attorney until a matter regarding attorneys fees has been heard in court (in January). My wife wants to substitute out her attorney in order to finalize the case, and his office has stated the following categorically: "We are refusing to sign the substitution until the motion regarding attorney’s fees was filed." Is this legal?

Ask a Local Attorney. 100% Anonymous. Free Answers.

Free Case Evaluation by a Local Lawyer: Click here
Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC
Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC | Jacob Peter Sartz IV
Ultimately, issues with substitutions are matters for a judge to decide. If one party is not willing to stipulate to a substitution, the proper course of action is to file a timely motion for substitution and convince a judge that the substitution is warranted.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 11/7/2011
Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
Written substitution of attorneys are not needed nor are they valid in criminal cases. The decision on whether to relieve an attorney either on motion of the attorney or the defendant are entirely up to the court.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 11/7/2011
Coulter's Law
Coulter's Law | Coulter K. Richardson
The attorney is right to insist he be paid, but January? That is whack. He can file a motion for substitution of counsel that will be heard in 2-3 weeks where he can lodge an attorney's lien and you can fight about the amount of his lien later.
Answer Applies to: New Jersey
Replied: 10/24/2011
Cynthia Henley, Lawyer
Cynthia Henley, Lawyer | Cynthia Henley
Another lawyer can simply appear with your wife at the hearing on the motion to substitute attorneys. The judge will make the ruling on if the substitution occurs - not either lawyer. And, that court is not the original lawyer's collection agency.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 10/24/2011
Law Office of Richard Williams
Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
I would suggest that this matter be handled by your wife's newly retained attorney.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 10/24/2011
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    This is not a criminal matter, but a civil matter, which should be directed to a civil attorney. If the case is criminal in nature, which your wife has pending against her in court, I believe the court could force counsel to appear and proceed with representing your wife, or granting your wife leave to hire and have another attorney appear in her behalf. Of course, your attorney can sue you for whatever fees are due to him, in a civil suit.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 10/24/2011
    Attorney Paul Lancia
    Attorney Paul Lancia | Paul Lancia
    Make an agreement on the fees and be done with it.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Bloom Legal, LLC
    Bloom Legal, LLC | Seth J. Bloom
    If you or your wife have failed to pay your current attorney, they are certainly entitled to take measures to collect the balance owed. It is also unlikely that another attorney would be willing to accept your case if they are aware that you have not paid your previous attorney's fees. You should attempt to negotiate a payment plan or other means of satisfying your obligation to your current attorney before attempting to hire anyone else.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Harden Law Offices
    Harden Law Offices | Leonard D. Harden
    I have no idea, but you can contact NH bar association fee dispute resolution they may know more.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
    No.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/3/2013
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    Probably legal. Whether it is ethical is another matter. You wife could file a motion to remove her attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    Typically a client may hire and fire the attorney. If there is a dispute over payment of fees, that would be a civil lawsuit brought in a different action.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts | Andrew Stephen Roberts
    No.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/3/2013
    Law Office of Joseph M. Rameaka
    Law Office of Joseph M. Rameaka | Carol L. Ricker, Esq.
    A client can fire an attorney at any time. Once you hire a new attorney, the new attorney will enter his or her appearance and ask the other attorney to file a Motion to Withdraw. This does not affect the legal fee issue.
    Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law | Mark Thiessen
    Tell the new attorney to take it to the Judge. The old attorney can try and sue you, but can't prohibit you for obtaining new counsel. Let the Judge put old attorney in his place.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
    Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
    I would need further information but generally an attorney has a lien on the file and doessssssnot have to turn over the file or sign a substitution of attorney form until the issue of unpaid legal fees is resolved and the court relieves him as attorney.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    Yes it is legal you cannot force an attorney or anyone to sign a document. That said, there are other ways to change attorneys you can just discharge your attorney. But all of this your new attorney should know and if he does not I question his competence.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Law Offices of Kenneth Wincorn P.C.
    Law Offices of Kenneth Wincorn P.C. | Kenneth Wincorn
    It is unusual and you should contact the State Bar to inquire.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Law Office of Michael R. Garber
    Law Office of Michael R. Garber | Michael R. Garber
    A party has the right to terminate his attorney at any time as long as it doesn't delay the case. A lawyer may not refuse to withdraw because he hasn't been paid.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    Contact the state bar. It has a web address.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law | Charles M. Schiff
    Regardless of whether the original attorney signs a substitution of attorneys, the court would likely recognize the substitute attorney. The substitute attorney can then finish the case. No court is going to require that your wife proceed in a criminal case with a private attorney she does not want representing her. The first attorney's position may not be illegal but it may be unethical. I believe that every state has a board that oversees attorney ethics. That board may be able to answer the question for your specific state.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Dunnings Law Firm
    Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
    If you have a new attorney, have him/her file a motion for substitution with the court and you file a grievance with the State Bar. If your present attorney doesn't have enough sense to do this, then you need another attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Healan Law Offices
    Healan Law Offices | William D. Healan, III
    Your lawyer cannot prevent you from hiring another lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Law Office of Edward J. Blum
    Law Office of Edward J. Blum | Edward J. Blum
    No.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/3/2013
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law | Jonathan S. Willett
    An attorney is under an ethical duty to withdraw if clearly asked to withdraw. The attorney cannot hold a substitution of counsel in abeyance pending a motion for attorneys fees. However, in a civil case an attorney can file an "attorneys lien" on the case.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    Your attorney can be changed at any time, but you will still owe the original attorney his fee. He must turn over the file as it belongs to the client, but the court must determine who the attorney of record is, and there should only be one attorney making the decisions and acting on behalf of the defendant unless they retain two attorneys.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    No, he cannot. He can sue for attorney's fees or ask for a lien against any judgement. He can't stop her from getting a new attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    It is not ethical. If the attorney is asked to withdraw, he must do so.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/21/2011
    Law Offices of Louis M. Leibowitz, LLC
    Law Offices of Louis M. Leibowitz, LLC | Louis Leibowitz
    Choice of counsel is the client's. Just fire the old lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 10/20/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    Yes. What isn't legal is not paying your attorney pursuant to a signed contract.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/20/2011
    Betts Legal Services
    Betts Legal Services | Shawn M. Betts
    An attorney does not ever have to sign a substitution of counsel form but the court can allow the new attorney to substitute in regardless. Not signing the form doesn't give the attorney any more right to fees, so not signing isn't doing anything to strengthen their argument that they are entitled to fees.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/20/2011
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    No, you have the right to terminate the representation. Call the bar association.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 10/20/2011
    LynchLaw
    LynchLaw | Michael Thomas Lynch
    I would not want to be that attorney. A client has the right to fire their attorney at any time. While the outstanding bill should be paid, such lack of payment cannot prevent a client from firing their attorney. Your wife's new attorney should explain this to her. Additionally, the clients file has to be turned over within days of demand regardless of the outstanding balance. Have your wife's new attorney give the old attorney a call and tactfully review the rules of professional responsibility with them.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/20/2011
    THE LAMPEL FIRM
    THE LAMPEL FIRM | ERIC LAMPEL
    It's a Bar violation. Tell him you will file a complaint against him if he won't sign the sub asap.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/20/2011
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C.
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C. | Dennis Roberts
    You should report him to the State Bar.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/20/2011
Click to View More Answers:
12 3 4 5 6 Free Legal QuestionsConnect with a local attorney