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Complaints – Effect on Lawyer-Client Relationship

If a client files an allegation against a lawyer while the lawyer is still acting for the client, it may affect the lawyer-client relationship. The filing of an allegation, however, does not sever the lawyer-client relationship and the lawyer’s duty of loyalty prevails. Section 3.7-1 of the Code of Professional Conduct states that a lawyer must not withdraw from representation of a client except for good cause and on reasonable notice to the client. The first commentary under that rule notes as follows:

“Although the client has the right to terminate the lawyer-client relationship at will, a lawyer does not enjoy the same freedom of action. Having undertaken the representation of a client, the lawyer should complete the task as ably as possible unless there is justifiable cause for terminating the relationship. It is inappropriate for a lawyer to withdraw on capricious or arbitrary grounds.”

The Code of Professional Conduct also provides information on when a lawyer can withdraw services:

Section 3.7-7 sets out when a lawyer must withdraw his or her services. Further guidance with respect to withdrawing legal services can be found in rule 23 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, 1986.


Withdrawal from Representation: section 3.7 (Code of Professional Conduct)

Change of Solicitor: rule 23 (Rules of the Supreme Court, 1986)

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(Posted: June 12, 2020)