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End-of-life notice: American Legal Ethics Library

As of March 1, 2013, the Legal Information Institute is no longer maintaining the information in the American Legal Ethics Library. It is no longer possible for us to maintain it at a level of completeness and accuracy given its staffing needs. It is very possible that we will revive it at a future time. At this point, it is in need of a complete technological renovation and reworking of the "correspondent firm" model which successfully sustained it for many years.

Many people have contributed time and effort to the project over the years, and we would like to thank them. In particular, Roger Cramton and Peter Martin not only conceived ALEL but gave much of their own labor to it. We are also grateful to Brad Wendel for his editorial contributions, to Brian Toohey and all at Jones Day for their efforts, and to all of our correspondents and contributors. Thank you.

We regret any inconvenience.

Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.


Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct

Comment - Rule 1.15

1. A lawyer should not accept representation in a matter unless it can be performed competently, promptly, and without improper conflict of interest. See generally Rules 1.01, 1.06, 1.07, 1.08, and 1.09. Having accepted the representation, a lawyer normally should endeavor to handle the matter to completion. Nevertheless, in certain situations the lawyer must terminate the representation and in certain other situations the lawyer is permitted to withdraw.

Mandatory Withdrawal

2. A lawyer ordinarily must decline employment if the employment will cause the lawyer to engage in conduct that the lawyer knows is illegal or that violates the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.15(a)(1); cf. Rules 1.02(c), 3.01, 3.02, 3.03, 3.04, 3.08, 4.01, and 8.04. Similarly, paragraph (a)(1) of this Rule requires a lawyer to withdraw from employment when the lawyer knows that the employment will result in a violation of a rule 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 have made such a suggestion in the ill-founded hope that a lawyer will not be constrained by a professional obligation. Cf. Rule 1.02(c) and (d).

3. When a lawyer has been appointed to represent a client and in certain other instances in litigation, withdrawal ordinarily requires approval of the appointing authority or presiding judge. See also Rule 6.01. Difficulty may be encountered if withdrawal is based on the client's demand that the lawyer engage in unprofessional conduct. The tribunal 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. See also Rule 1.06(e).

Discharge

4. A client has the power to discharge a lawyer at any time, with or without cause, subject to liability for payment for the lawyer's services, and paragraph (a) of this Rule requires that the discharged lawyer withdraw. Where future dispute about the withdrawal may be anticipated, it may be advisable to prepare a written statement reciting the circumstances.

5. Whether a client can discharge an appointed counsel depends on the applicable law. A client seeking to do so should be given full explanation of the consequences. In some instances the consequences may include a decision by the appointing authority or presiding judge that appointment of successor counsel is unjustified, thus requiring the client to represent himself.

Mentally Incompetent Client

6. If the client is mentally incompetent, the client may lack the legal capacity to discharge the lawyer (see paragraphs 11 and 12 of Comment to Rule 1.02), and in any event the discharge may be seriously adverse to the client's interests. The lawyer should make special effort to help the incompetent client consider the consequences (see paragraph 5 of Comment to Rule 1.03) and in some situations may initiate proceedings for a conservatorship or similar protection of the client. See Rule 1.02(e).

Optional Withdrawal

7. Paragraph (b) supplements paragraph (a) by permitting a lawyer to withdraw from representation in some certain additional 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. A lawyer is not required to discontinue the representation until the lawyer knows the conduct will be illegal or in violation of these rules, at which point the lawyer's withdrawal is mandated by paragraph (a)(1). Withdrawal is also permitted if the lawyer's services were misused in the past. The lawyer also may withdraw where the client insists on pursuing a repugnant or imprudent objective or one with which the lawyer has fundamental disagreement. A lawyer may withdraw if the client refuses, after being duly warned, 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.

8. Withdrawal permitted by paragraph (b)(2) through (7) is optional with the lawyer even though the withdrawal may have a material adverse effect upon the interests of the client.

Assisting the Client Upon Withdrawal

9. In every instance of withdrawal and 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. See paragraph (d). The lawyer may retain papers as security for a fee only to the extent permitted by law.

10. Other rules, in addition to Rule 1.15, require or suggest withdrawal in certain situations. See Rules 1.01, 1.05 Comment 22, 1.06(e) and 1.07(c), 1.11(c), 1.12(d), and 3.08(a).