A barista can stop making you coffee is you refuse to pay him or her, but can a lawyer quit representing you because of a fee dispute? This is the question that arises in cases when a client misses a payment or two to his/her attorney.
Attorney fees are not always fair or reasonable, which is why it often happens that clients cannot afford the fees or miss a payment or two for some other reason. In that case, does your lawyer have a right to threaten to withdraw from your case or actually quit representing you altogether?
“Not really,” says our San Diego legal malpractice attorney at the Law Office of Edward J. Babbitt, APC. In reality, an attorney cannot refuse to represent you because of a fee dispute.
What options do you have when attorney fees are unreasonable?
More often than not, whenever a fee dispute arises between a lawyer and his/her client, the client thinks that he or she has only two options, both of which are not exactly satisfying: pay the lawyer what is believed to be an unfair or unreasonable fee or hire another attorney (which, in itself, can even more expensive than the first option).
But our experienced legal malpractice attorney in San Diego says there is a third option. In the event of a fee dispute with your lawyer, you have a right to state a written objection to the attorney fee, pay what you believe to be the reasonable fee for the representation and/or services provided by your lawyer, and demand the lawyer to continue representing you.
Keep in mind that your fee dispute can be settled after your case has been closed. You need to focus on winning your case. Attorney fee disputes can be resolved afterwards.
Do lawyers have a right to quit representing you because of a fee dispute?
In California, attorneys do not have the automatic right to refuse to represent a client in the event of a fee dispute. Under California law, a lawyer cannot withdraw from a case unless his or her client fails to “fails substantially to fulfill an obligation,” which is paying attorney fees.
However, the lawyer is required to give a reasonable warning of his/her withdrawal if the obligation is not fulfilled by the client. “In other words,” explains our San Diego legal malpractice attorney, “If you pay your lawyer the portion of the attorney fees that you believe to be reasonable, your attorney will not be permitted to stop representing you.”
What to do if your lawyer is overbilling you?
Here at the Law Office of Edward J. Babbitt, APC, our best legal malpractice lawyers in California have helped more than 50 clients to successfully sue their attorneys for unreasonable or excessive fees. More often than not, firing your lawyer is counterproductive and may even hurt your case, which is why it is important to focus on settling your main case and then resolve the fee dispute.
In California, clients have a right to cease a legal relationship with their lawyers, but the consequences of that decision in the middle of a personal injury or any other case may not be pleasant.
If you believe that you have been overbilled by your attorney, or you believe that the attorney fees in your case are otherwise unreasonable or unfair, consult with our lawyers at the Law Office of Edward J. Babbitt, APC, right away. Let us evaluate your case independently. Call our offices at 619.543.1789 or fill out this contact form to get a free consultation.