Can an attorney who has represented you for the past year, in a criminal defense case, drop you as a client due to your inability to pay in full?

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Can an attorney who has represented you for the past year, in a criminal defense case, drop you as a client due to your inability to pay in full?

My husband hired an attorney in a criminal sex offense case and paid a $7,500 retainer, plus $755 for an investigator and $500 for a polygraph. We agreed in the beginning that if the case went to trial we would be required to pay an additional $7,000. The case is going to trial and the attorney has told us that we need to pay the additional $7,000 before the trial date, which is approximately one month away, or he will not represent us. We don’t have a problem paying the $7,000 in payments, but do not have the ability to come up with the $7,000 cash. Is this customary for an attorney to represent you for over one year and then refuse to represent you at trial due to inability to pay? Do we have any options?

Asked on December 10, 2010 under Business Law, Colorado

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I guess what the attorney is worried about is being stuck for the bill - not that I am saying that you would ever do that but it may be why he is asking for money up front.  Maybe you should speak with him about paying an installment soon and then executing notes for the rest of the fee.  This way he has something substantial to go on.  Then in the unlikely event that you should default on the notes he can execute on them.  try and put together a reasonable time period i  which you can pay him the money.  Maybe a set amount in two weeks then right before the trial and then again in another reasonable amountof time.  It would be unfair for him to move to be relieved as counsel at this late a date and the court may not allow it anyway as it could prejudice you. Good luck.


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