Ethically declining to provide representation

You likely see advertisements both in the media and the public square soliciting the services of local attorneys. As has been mentioned on this blog in the past, attorneys are akin to small business owners in that a significant part of their jobs is securing new clients. This is why many of those who come to see us here at St. Denis & Davey P.A. are surprised when attorneys decline to represent them (or terminate their services while cases are still ongoing). If the same thing has happened to you, you might rightly question whether such an action is ethical.

While attorneys are not legally obligated to take on cases, the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct encourages them to accept work within their respective specialties unless providing you with representation will violate another of the rules of professional conduct or an attorney’s current physical or mental condition inhibits them from representing you to the best of their abilities.

Each of the aforementioned reasons for declining to provide representation may be understandable. What may be difficult for you to accept (and where an attorney may be most likely to violate their professional obligations) is when services are terminated in the middle of arguing a case. The only acceptable reasons for doing so include:

  • The termination occurring without adversely affecting your representation
  • Your attorney believing that your actions may be criminal or fraudulent
  • The belief that you have used the attorney’s services to help perpetuate a crime or fraud
  • The attorney having a fundamental disagreement with your actions
  • Providing representation has placed an unreasonable financial burden on your attorney

You attorney can also terminate their services if you fail to fulfill certain obligations related to their services. More information on an attorney’s obligations can be found throughout our site.

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