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Professional Responsibility/Legal Ethics
Wayne State University Law School
Rodwan, Gail

The Attorney Client Relationship

Background on the relationship
An AC relationship can be formed as long as two circumstances occur:
1. The client behaved in such a way that a reasonable person in the lawyer’s position would believe that she was being asked to provide legal services. AND
2. The lawyer behaved in such a way that a reasonable person in the client’s position would believe that the lawyer had either agreed to provide legal services or at least not refused to do so.

Ways to Form the AC Relationship
Also, once the Attorney-Client relationship is formed, the relationship is ongoing unless and until the client understands, or reasonably should understand, that he can no longer depend

1. Traditional – Client walks into atty’s office and asks for legal help, and the client pays.
Showing that a fee has been paid is a strong presumption that there is a relationship.
Note: It is negligent for an atty to allow a client to walk out the door, when you know that something important is going to happen in the case, i.e. the SOL is running out. To safeguard yourself, you need to make it clear that you are not the client’s atty.

2. Appointed Attorney – The attorney can also be appointed. Money need not change hands to form the AC privilege. A lawyer appointed by a court to represent an indigent criminal defendant has a professional relationship with the D.

3. Intermediary – An agent or a third party can form a relationship between a firm and other people who the lawyer has never met. For example, Lawyer gives advice to A, knowing that A will pass on the information to B and C. Later, Lawyer files papers for B and C. There is a relationship here.

4. Implication of Representation – The atty acts in a way that a reasonable client would think that this person is his atty. Upjohn.

5. Class Actions – Class action lawyers have duties to all class members whose names they will never know.

Ways to End the AC Relationship

1. The Lawyer MUST Quit – This is MRPC 1.16(a), and the lawyer must call it quits when the lawyer cannot adequately represent the client because of disability, conflict of interest, or it would be illegal/unethical.

2. The Client Fires the Lawyer – A client can almost always fire his lawyer, unless it is too close to trial. Also, a client may almost always fire a retained lawyer, but they are usually more limited when they are represented by in-house counsel or a CAA.

3. The Lawyer Fires the Client – A lawyer can always fire his client

y confidences.

C. A lawyer must withdraw if a client insists that the atty do something illegal. The
client simply suggesting an illegal course of conduct is not enough to force an atty
to withdraw.

2. Permissive Withdraw – (Paragraph (b)) – Noting the exceptions in (a), the lawyer can
withdraw if it does not hurt the client.
OR, the lawyer may withdraw, even if it hurts the client when there is a good reason.
For example: the client is behaving in a way the lawyer thinks is criminal, the client has
used the lawyer to perpetrate fraud, the client insists on an objective the lawyer think is
not prudent, or the representation is a financial burden on the lawyer.

3. A court can order a lawyer to continue representing a client, notwithstanding good
cause for withdrawal.

4. Breaking the Bonds – Once the relationship comes to an end, the lawyer must protect the
client’s interests, give the client reasonable notice, allow time for other counsel, surrender
papers and property that the client is entitled to, and refund money paid in advance.