When can an attorney refuse an appointment?

The need for attorneys in Florida to solicit their services to you and other prospective clients has been detailed on this blog in the past. Yet lawyers do not always have to chase down their own clients; there may be cases where the court appoints an attorney or law firm to provide you with representation. This is common in criminal cases, where each jurisdiction has a public defenders office that employs attorneys specifically for the purpose of representing you if you cannot secure your own attorney. There may also be instances outside of criminal complaints where the court has an established relationship with a local attorney and relies on said attorney to provide representation when it is needed. 

This lead to the inevitable question of whether or not an attorney is obligated to accept an appointment. Lawyers (like any working professional) should have the right to control the work that they choose to do; at the same time, it is recognized that they offer a unique service that few others are capable of providing (at least adequately), and therefore there are indeed rules regulating their acceptance of appointments. 

According to the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney can only refuse an appointment to represent you in the following scenarios: 

  • Providing representation would require that the attorney violate another rule of professional conduct
  • Representing you would place an unreasonable financial burden on the attorney
  • Your case or cause being so repugnant to the attorney that the likelihood of their feelings not influencing their relationship with you is unlikely 

Please keep in mind that these standards do not necessarily apply to cases where you have solicited an attorney's services. 

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