Calling all Oregon lawyers: are you taking advantage of your right to file a “notice of termination of relationship?”
ORS 9.380(2) was amended in 2011 to allow withdrawal by filing a simple notice, provided two conditions are met. First, the case must be concluded, meaning a final determination or judgment has been entered. Second, all services required of the lawyer under the fee agreement must be complete.
“The relationship of attorney and client may be terminated after the entry of a judgment or other final determination in an action or proceeding by the filing of a notice of termination of the relationship in the action or proceeding. The notice must be signed by the attorney and must state that all services required of the attorney under the agreement between the attorney and the client have been provided.”
The amendment eliminates the step of filing a formal motion with the court.
Why You Should File Notices of Termination
Take advantage of ORS 9.380(2) at the conclusion of your cases. File a notice of termination and remove yourself as attorney of record. This is especially important in practice areas where matters could reopen or require future steps. Family law is notorious for post-judgment activity (contempt actions, modifications, and the like). Criminal law practitioners may or may not be responsible for filing motions to dismiss when a one-year diversion agreement is completed. If your agreed-upon services do not include filing the dismissal, withdraw. ORS 9.390 makes clear you are on the hook until the notice is filed:
“When an attorney is changed, or the relationship of attorney and client is terminated, as provided in ORS 9.380, written notice of the change or termination shall be given to the adverse party. Until the notice is given, the adverse party is bound to recognize the former attorney.”
Comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct
Satisfying ORS 9.380(2) isn’t the only step. You must also comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct. Oregon RPC 1.16(d) provides:
“Upon termination of representation, a lawyer 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 other counsel, 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 lawyer may retain papers, personal property and money of the client to the extent permitted by other law.”
At the conclusion of a case, the timing issues may be less critical – assuming the client does not wish to purse an appeal – but the remainder of the rule must be followed. To learn more about this topic, and how to properly disengage, see: How to Fire a Client.
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