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RULE 19-301.16. DECLINING OR TERMINATING REPRESENTATION (1.16)

West's Annotated Code of MarylandMaryland Rules

West's Annotated Code of Maryland
Maryland Rules
Title 19. Attorneys
Chapter 300. Maryland Attorneys' Rules of Professional Conduct
Client-Attorney Relationship [Rules 19-301.1 to 19-301.18]
MD Rules Attorneys, Rule 19-301.16
RULE 19-301.16. DECLINING OR TERMINATING REPRESENTATION (1.16)
(a) Except as stated in section (c) of this Rule, an attorney shall not represent a client or, where representation has commenced, shall withdraw from the representation of a client if:
(1) the representation will result in violation of the Maryland Attorneys' Rules of Professional Conduct or other law;
(2) the attorney's physical or mental condition materially impairs the attorney's ability to represent the client; or
(3) the attorney is discharged.
(b) Except as stated in section (c) of this Rule, an attorney may withdraw from representing a client if:
(1) withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client;
(2) the client persists in a course of action involving the attorney's services that the attorney reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent;
(3) the client has used the attorney's services to perpetrate a crime or fraud;
(4) the client insists upon action or inaction that the attorney considers repugnant or with which the attorney has a fundamental disagreement;
(5) the client fails substantially to fulfill an obligation to the attorney regarding the attorney's services and has been given reasonable warning that the attorney will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled;
(6) the representation will result in an unreasonable financial burden on the attorney or has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the client; or
(7) other good cause for withdrawal exists.
(c) An attorney must comply with applicable law requiring notice to or permission of a tribunal when terminating representation. When ordered to do so by a tribunal, an attorney shall continue representation notwithstanding good cause for terminating the representation.
(d) Upon termination of representation, an attorney shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client's interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of another attorney, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee or expense that has not been earned or incurred. The attorney may retain papers relating to the client to the extent permitted by other law.
COMMENT
[1] An attorney should not accept representation in a matter unless it can be performed competently, promptly, without improper conflict of interest and to completion. Ordinarily, a representation in a matter is completed when the agreed-upon assistance has been concluded. See Rules 19-301.2 (c) (1.2) and 19-306.5 (6.5). See also Rule 19-301.3 (1.3), Comment [4].
Mandatory Withdrawal--[2] An attorney ordinarily must decline or withdraw from representation if the client demands that the attorney engage in conduct that is illegal or violates the Maryland Attorneys' Rules of Professional Conduct or other law. The attorney is not obligated to decline or withdraw simply because the client suggests such a course of conduct; a client may make such a suggestion in the hope that an attorney will not be constrained by a professional obligation.
[3] When an attorney has been appointed to represent a client, withdrawal ordinarily requires approval of the appointing authority. See also Rule 19-306.2 (6.2). Similarly, court approval or notice to the court is often required by applicable law before an attorney withdraws from pending litigation. Difficulty may be encountered if withdrawal is based on the client's demand that the attorney engage in unprofessional conduct. The court may request an explanation for the withdrawal, while the attorney may be bound to keep confidential the facts that would constitute such an explanation. The attorney's statement that professional considerations require termination of the representation ordinarily should be accepted as sufficient. Attorneys should be mindful of their obligation to both clients and the court under Rules 19-301.6 (1.6) and 19-303.3 (3.3).
Discharge--[4] A client has a right to discharge an attorney at any time, with or without cause, subject to liability for payment for the attorney's services. Where future dispute about the withdrawal may be anticipated, it may be advisable to prepare a written statement reciting the circumstances.
[5] Whether a client can discharge an appointed attorney may depend on applicable law. A client seeking to do so should be given a full explanation of the consequences. These consequences may include a decision by the appointing authority that appointment of successor attorney is unjustified, thus requiring self-representation by the client.
[6] If the client has severely diminished capacity, the client may lack the legal capacity to discharge the attorney, and in any event the discharge may be seriously adverse to the client's interests. The attorney should make special effort to help the client consider the consequences and may take reasonably necessary protective action as provided in Rule 19-301.14 (1.14).
Optional Withdrawal--[7] An attorney may withdraw from representation in some circumstances. The attorney has the option to withdraw if it can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the client's interests. Withdrawal is also justified if the client persists in a course of action that the attorney reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent, for a an attorney is not required to be associated with such conduct even if the attorney does not further it. Withdrawal is also permitted if the attorney's services were misused in the past even if that would materially prejudice the client. The attorney may also withdraw where the client insists on taking action or inaction that the attorney considers repugnant or with which the attorney has a fundamental disagreement.
[8] An attorney may withdraw if the client refuses to abide by the terms of an agreement relating to the representation, such as an agreement concerning fees or court costs or an agreement limiting the objectives of the representation.
Assisting the Client Upon Withdrawal--[9] Even if the attorney has been unfairly discharged by the client, an attorney must take all reasonable steps to mitigate the consequences to the client. The attorney may retain papers as security for a fee only to the extent permitted by law, subject to the limitations in section (d) of this Rule. See Rule 19-301.15 (1.15).
Model Rules Comparison: Rule 19-301.16 (1.16) is substantially similar to the language of the Ethics 2000 Amendments to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct with the exception of the addition of “or inaction” to Rule 19-301.16 (b)(4) (1.16) and Comment [7], and the addition of “subject to the limitations in section (d) of this Rule” to Comment [9].

Credits

[Adopted June 6, 2016, eff. July 1, 2016.]
MD R Attorneys, Rule 19-301.16, MD R ATTORNEYS Rule 19-301.16
Current with amendments received through August 1, 2019.
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