Tip of the Month

Tip for December 2013

Preserve Confidential Information when Withdrawing from Representation

When a lawyer finds it necessary (or desirable) to withdraw from representing a client in a matter that is pending before a tribunal, a motion for leave to withdraw is usually required (unless the client has another lawyer substituting as counsel). Although lawyers need to state some reason or basis for the withdrawal, especially if the client will object, Rule 1.6 of the Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits the disclosure of information pertaining to the representation unless the client consents or one of the exceptions to the rule applies. Thus, unless one of the circumstances occurs exempting the lawyer from that obligation, the lawyer can only provide general reasons for needing to withdraw. If the client makes accusations about the lawyer in an objection to the motion or at a hearing on the motion, the lawyer is permitted in virtually all states to disclose confidential information necessary to defend the lawyer against those allegations. But unless and until something like that occurs, the lawyer should be very careful to comply with the requirements of Rule 1.6 (or in California, Rule 3-100).