Most clients want their attorney to handle their case in a way that, in the judgment and discretion of the attorney, will result in the best outcome for the client. Sometimes the client's view of what is best differs from the lawyer's view. In those situations, the client should tell the lawyer what he or she wants for an outcome, and if the lawyer does not agree that this is the best outcome, the lawyer may ask the client to sign a written statement that the client has been advised against something but nevertheless chooses to act against the advice of the attorney. This doesn't mean that lawyer and client have to part ways, it is simply a record for the protection of both of them that there was a difference of opinion on a matter and the lawyer is deferring to the decision of the client about it.
Sometimes clients want the lawyer to take an approach or to pursue a course of action that the lawyer is either uncomfortable with, or in a way that the lawyer is unwilling to participate. While clients ultimately retain control over the decisions about how their case will be handled, lawyers reserve the decision to refrain from certain conduct and to withdraw from the case in circumstances where the continued participation of the lawyer runs against the lawyers personal or professional ethics. In those circumstances the client may take whatever course of action the client chooses, but the client will have to do it with a different lawyer, or without a lawyer if one can't be retained to act as directed by the client.
Lawyers don't have clients. Clients have lawyers. The client always retains the right to select, hire, and to discharge counsel, for any reason, or for no reason at all. Clients are encouraged to inform their lawyers of dissatisfaction as soon as possible. This gives the client and the lawyer a reasonable chance to:
- fix the problem if it can be fixed;
- minimize loss or damage or other adverse consequences; and
- prevent the problem from growing into a more serious situation.
When you discharge an attorney, you are entitled to have a copy or record of the pleadings and evidence in your case, and to the return of any unused retainer (except in “flat fee” cases), as soon as any unbilled or unpaid charges can be determined and paid.