Can My Lawyer Withdraw from Representing Me?

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Can My Lawyer Withdraw from Representing Me?

When is a lawyer legally permitted to withdraw from a case? As a criminal defense attorney serving the Metro-Phoenix area, Todd Coolidge believes his clients should know their rights when it comes to their legal representation. You, the defendant, retain the right to fire your lawyer at any time without needing to explain yourself to the court or the attorney. However, when an attorney wishes to file a motion to withdraw themselves from a case, they must have a very good reason and the court must approve their motion to withdraw. Reasons a lawyer may withdraw from representation are generally categorized as either “mandatory” or “voluntary.” 

Mandatory Withdrawal from Representation

When a lawyer is required to remove themselves from a case, it is called a mandatory withdrawal. A mandatory withdrawal usually has to do with a legal or ethical requirement, including situations where: 

  • The attorney becomes a crucial witness in the case. 
  • A conflict arises that has not or cannot be waived by the client. 
  • The attorney’s mental or physical condition impairs their ability to provide sufficient counsel. 
  • Continued representation requires the attorney to violate the law or ethical guidelines. 
  • The client terminates the attorney’s representation. 

Voluntary Withdrawal from Representation

While a defendant can terminate a client-attorney relationship at any time, an attorney does not have the same right. A voluntary, or permissive, withdrawal from representation by an attorney should only be undertaken after serious consideration. In fact, if a lawyer fails to adequately protect their client’s interests in the withdrawal process, they may be subject to professional discipline. Reasons an attorney may seek a voluntary withdrawal include: 

  • A client’s failure to meet certain duties or obligations to the lawyer; particularly regarding payment. 
  • A client’s conduct brings about an irreparable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship. 
  • A client uses the attorney’s services to perpetrate a crime. 

Arizona Procedures for Lawyer Withdrawal from Representation

In Arizona, an attorney has a duty to continue representation until the court permits the counsel to withdraw from the case. When submitting a motion to withdraw, a lawyer must abide by these regulations: 

    1. provide a substantial reason for withdrawal;
    2. attempt to get permission from the client to withdraw from the case—which may not be possible in all situations;
    3. show they did everything they could to uphold the agreements and obligations they had to their client;
    4. uphold attorney-client confidentiality; and
    5. advise the client and new counsel of pending court dates, status of the case, and anything else necessary and appropriate for the smooth transfer of the representation.


Rule 6.3 of the Arizona Rules for Criminal Procedure outlines the specific duties an attorney has toward their client and procedures for ethical withdrawal of counsel. In addition, a lawyer may cite ER 1.16 of the Rules of Professional Conduct in a motion to withdraw, which covers many of the instances listed above in mandatory and voluntary withdrawal scenarios. 

If you have been charged with a crime in Arizona or are seeking alternative counsel due to a lawyer withdrawal from representation, contact Coolidge Law Firm and let us do everything within our power to fight for your case. 

Image by Sang Hyun Cho from Pixabay ( 8/6/2019)