United States District Court

Northern District Of Illinois

Local Rules

LR83.51.16. Declining or Termination Representation

(a) A lawyer representing a client before a tribunal shall withdraw from employment (with permission of the tribunal if such permission is required), and a lawyer representing a client in other matters shall withdraw from employment, if:

(1) the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the client is bringing the legal action, conducting the defense, or asserting a position in the litigation, or is otherwise having steps taken, merely for the purpose of harassing or maliciously harming any person;

(2) the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that such continued employment will result in violation of these rules;

(3) the lawyer’s mental or physical condition renders it unreasonably difficult for the lawyer to carry out the employment effectively; or

(4) the lawyer is discharged by the client.

(b) Except as required in section (a), a lawyer shall not request permission to withdraw in matters pending before a tribunal, and shall not withdraw in other matters, unless such request or such withdrawal is because:

(1) the client:

(A) insists upon presenting a claim or defense that is not warranted under existing law and cannot be supported by a reasonable argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law;

(B) seeks to pursue an illegal course of conduct;

(C) insists that the lawyer pursue a course of conduct that is illegal or that is prohibited by these rules;

(D) by other conduct renders it unreasonably difficult for the lawyer to carry out the employment effectively;

(E) insists, in a matter not pending before a tribunal, that the lawyer engage in conduct that is contrary to the judgment and advice of the lawyer although not prohibited by these rules; or

(F) substantially fails to fulfill an agreement or obligation to the lawyer as to expenses or fees;

(2) the lawyer’s inability to work with co-counsel indicates that the best interests of the client likely will be served by withdrawal;

(3) the client consents to termination of the lawyer's employment after disclosure; or

(4) the lawyer reasonably believes that a tribunal will, in a proceeding pending before the tribunal, find the existence of other good cause for withdrawal.

(c) If permission for withdrawal from employment is required by the rules of a tribunal, a lawyer shall not withdraw from employment in a proceeding before that tribunal without its permission.

(d) In any event, a lawyer shall not withdraw from employment until the lawyer has taken reasonable steps to avoid foreseeable prejudice to the rights of the client, including giving due notice to the 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.

(e) A lawyer who withdraws from employment shall refund promptly any part of a fee paid in advance that has not been earned.

Committee Comment. General. A lawyer should not accept representation in a matter unless it can be performed competently, promptly, without improper conflict of interest and to completion.

Mandatory Withdrawal. A lawyer ordinarily must decline or withdraw from representation if the client demands that the lawyer engage in conduct that is illegal or violates the rules of professional conduct or other law. The lawyer is not obliged to decline or withdraw simply because the client suggests such a course of conduct; a client may make such a suggestion in the hope that a lawyer will not be constrained by a professional obligation.

When a lawyer has been appointed to represent a client, withdrawal ordinarily requires approval of the appointing authority. See also LR83.56.2. Difficulty may be encountered if withdrawal is based on the client’s demand that the lawyer engage in unprofessional conduct. The court may wish an explanation for the withdrawal, while the lawyer may be bound to keep confidential the facts that would constitute such an explanation. The lawyer’s statement that professional considerations require termination of the representation ordinarily should be accepted as sufficient.

Discharge. A client has a right to discharge a lawyer at any time, with or without cause, subject to liability for payment for the lawyer’s services. Where future dispute about the withdrawal may be anticipated, it may be advisable to prepare a written statement reciting the circumstances.

Whether a client can discharge appointed counsel may depend on applicable law. A client seeking to do so should be given a full explanation of the consequences. These consequences may include a decision by the appointing authority that appointment of successor counsel is unjustified, thus requiring the client to represent himself.

If the client is mentally incompetent, the client may lack the legal capacity to discharge the lawyer, and in any event the discharge may be seriously adverse to the client’s interests. The lawyer should make special effort to help the client consider the consequences and, in an extreme case, may initiate proceedings for a conservatorship or similar protection of the client. See LR83.51.14.

Optional Withdrawal. A lawyer may withdraw from representation in some circumstances. The lawyer has the option to withdraw if it can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the client’s interests. Withdrawal is also justified if the client persists in a course of action that the lawyer reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent, for a lawyer is not required to be associated with such conduct even if the lawyer does not further it. Withdrawal is also permitted if the lawyer’s services were misused in the past even if that would materially prejudice the client. The lawyer also may withdraw where the client insists on a repugnant or imprudent objective or where some personal incompatibility exists between the lawyer and the client or where a substantial disagreement exists between the lawyer and the client on litigation strategy.

A lawyer may withdraw if the client refuses to abide by the terms of an agreement relating to the representation, such as an agreement concerning fees or court costs or an agreement limiting the objectives of the representation.

Assisting the Client upon Withdrawal. Even if the lawyer has been unfairly discharged by the client, a lawyer must take all reasonable steps to mitigate the consequences to the client. The lawyer may retain papers as security for a fee only to the extent permitted by law.

Whether or not a lawyer for an organization may under certain unusual circumstances have a legal obligation to the organization after withdrawing or being discharged by the organization’s highest authority is beyond the scope of these rules.