Q: I paid a divorce attorney a retainer for services. He went out of business. How can I get a new attorney with no money?
I hired a divorce attorney in mid 2020 and paid the retainer off in early 2021. The attorney worked throughout mid 2021 and 2022. The divorce is still not finalized because my ex-husband's attorney has been stalling with returning my attorney's calls and letters. My attorney informed me in September that he was closing his office to pursue other ventures. He referred me to someone else but this new person does not like to handle divorce cases. I do not know what to do. Do I have to pay another attorney to handle my case?
The law of lawyering demands that attorney fees be reasonable. "Reasonable" means there must be an objective standard involved in the receipt of fees. That standard is typically an hourly fee for work performed.
This hourly scheme works wonders for an attorney who wants to abandon a case. The attorney simply refers the client to another attorney, and the client is stuck. The client will have to pay another up-front retainer to be represented.
However, in Pennsylvania, an attorney cannot simply walk off of a case. Three conditions excuse an attorney from a case: 1. The court releases the attorney, 2. The case ends, 3. The client consents the attorney off the case. Otherwise, the attorney is stuck.
It may very well be that the attorney is pulling a fast one to walk away from a case by fooling the asker into a consent. We are not certain, however, because we know none of the details of the representation and we have not reviewed the asker's retainer agreement with his attorney.
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