Obligations to Clients Upon Withdrawal from Representation
A lawyer's duties to a client upon withdrawal from representation, either because the lawyer is discharged by the client or because the lawyer chooses to or must withdraw from representation, are set out under section 3.7 of the amended Rules of Professional Conduct (the Rules). Although a number of the requirements have remained the same under the Rules, there are some new requirements and commentary about which lawyers should be aware.
Generally, when a lawyer withdraws from representation, the lawyer must try to minimize expense and avoid prejudice to the client and must do all that can reasonably be done to facilitate the orderly transfer of the matter to the successor legal practitioner [rule 3.7-8]. Upon discharge or withdrawal, under the Rules, a lawyer continues to be required to
- deliver to or to the order of the client all papers and property to which the client is entitled, subject to the lawyer's right to a lien;
- give the client all information that may be required in connection with the case or matter, subject to any applicable trust conditions;
- account for all funds of the client then held or previously dealt with, including refunding of any remuneration not earned during the representation;
- promptly render an account for outstanding fees and disbursements; and
- cooperate with the successor legal practitioner so as to minimize expense and avoid prejudice to the client [rules 3.7-9(b)-(f)].
In addition, a lawyer must now notify the client in writing stating
- the fact that the lawyer has withdrawn;
- the reasons, if any, for the withdrawal; and
- in the case of litigation, that the client should expect that the hearing or trial will proceed on the date scheduled and that the client should retain a new legal practitioner promptly [rule 3.7-9(a)].
If the lawyer who is discharged or withdraws is a member of a firm, the client should be notified that the lawyer and the firm are no longer acting for the client [commentary to rule 3.7-9].
Furthermore, the Rules now expressly state that a lawyer must comply with the rules of the court upon discharge or withdrawal [rule 3.7-9(g)].
When a law firm is dissolved or a lawyer leaves a firm to practise elsewhere, it typically results in the termination of the lawyer-client relationship as between a particular client and one or more of the lawyers involved. The commentary to rule 3.7-1 provides some guidance on a lawyer's responsibilities in such cases. Because the client's interests are paramount, the decision as to who will represent the client must be made by the client in the absence of undue influence or harassment by either the lawyer or law firm. This may require either or both of the departing lawyer and the law firm to notify clients in writing that the lawyer is leaving and advise the client of the options available in the circumstances. These options may include having the departing lawyer continue to act, having the law firm continue to act, or retaining a new lawyer.
In a criminal context, where a lawyer is discharged or is permitted or required to withdraw, the lawyer must ensure that he or she takes the steps outlined under rule 3.7-4 of the Rules.
Client Service and Communication Practice Management Guideline
Electronic Annual Fee Billing Implemented New for 2015, lawyers and paralegals will receive their annual fee invoice through the LSUC Portal. Paper invoices are no longer being produced. In mid-December, you will receive an email from the Law Society to notify you that your 2015 invoice is ready. Visit the LSUC Portal to ensure we have your current email address.
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Do you provide legal services to the public? A new Directory section in the LSUC Portal now lets you indicate up to eight areas of law that members of the public can consult you about. Very soon, members of the public will be able to search for this information in the Lawyer and Paralegal Directory. Please consider helping the Law Society with this initiative by visiting the Directory tab in the LSUC Portal and filling in the areas of law or legal services you provide to the public.
Ryerson and Ottawa Universities seeking Law Practice Program (LPP) Work Placements The Law Society encourages lawyers to offer a paid work placement for 2014-15 LPP candidates and help train the next generation of lawyers. Offering a work placement is a four-month commitment from January to April 2015. LPP candidates have the same status as articling candidates.
November 28 - Convocation
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December 31 - Final date for lawyers and paralegals subject to the CPD Requirement to complete all 12 CPD Hours and record them on the LSUC Portal. Failure to complete and record CPD Hours will result in a $100 late fee and referral for suspension.