Lawyer termination of agreement for legal services
A lawyer-client fee agreement may state that if changes in the law or developments in client’s case lead the lawyer to conclude that the client’s case has no realistic chance of succeeding, the lawyer may terminate the agreement for legal services. However, where the lawyer wishes to withdraw because the claim is considered to have no merit, it is important to explain to the client why the claim has no merit and to give the client an opportunity to consider that advice.
In Slater Vecchio LLP v. Cashman, 2012 BCSC 830 the law firm was not inclined to continue with prosecuting a Part 7 claim which it considered to be not worthwhile, and promptly terminated the relationship with the client after the client merely enquired about the status of the Part 7 claim. The court held that it was improper to terminate the relationship without properly addressing the merits of the claim with the client:
What the evidence shows is that all Mr. Cashman did in January, 2011, was call Mr. Gordon to find out what was happening on the Part 7 Action. In response to that inquiry, the Solicitors simply quit. The taking of that step in response to a simple inquiry as to the status of the matter is, in my view, unfortunate.
In my view, the least the Solicitors could have done was to prepare an opinion for the Client setting out in some detail the weaknesses of his case and recommending that he not pursue the Part 7 action, and, as well, setting out the risks of pursuing the claim, thus discharging their duty not to unreasonably expose the client to costs. Thereafter, it might be that the client may or may not wish to proceed knowing all the facts and having had an opportunity to consider them.
(Slater Vecchio LLP v. Cashman, 2012 BCSC 830 at para. 88-89).
Plaintiffs who are concerned that their lawyer may have improperly terminated an agreement for legal services should seek an opinion from another lawyer as soon as possible.
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