Ending Legal Representation

When Can A Client Sack Their Solicitor?

A client is entitled to sack their solicitor at any time ending legal representation without giving any reason. The solicitor is then normally entitled to retain the file until their costs are paid (known as a "lien").

If the solicitor is acting on a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA), the solicitor can normally choose to be paid immediately for the work done irrespective of whether the case is won or lost. The alternative is to wait until the end of the case and only be paid if the case is won. If they choose immediate payment they are not entitled to a success fee, whereas if they wait until the end they are.

When Can A Solicitor Stop Acting For A Client?

A solicitor is not entitled to stop acting for a client without good reason and on reasonable notice or the client's consent. This is backed up by the Solicitors' Code of Conduct 2007 (rule 2.01(2)) and, for cases going to Court (contentious business), the Solicitors Act 1974.

The retainer will often set out the grounds upon which a solicitor may stop acting. Those grounds are subject to the basic law set out above. This does not prevent solicitors from inserting clauses which are not legally binding. The most extreme example we have seen was a clause entitling the solicitors to terminate representation on notice (i.e. without giving any reason).

Whether a solicitor can stop acting is very important. Once a solicitor has agreed to act in a case they have agreed to act until the (sometimes bitter) end. They cannot just drop out and leave the client in the lurch.

If a solicitor wishes to sack a client they must write to the client first stating why, what the client must do if they do not want to be sacked and providing a deadline to do this by. If they fail to do so and sack the client anyway, they are in breach of contract and may not be entitled to be paid.

When solicitors wish to stop acting they often send the client a Notice of Acting in Person. If this is signed and returned, the solicitors are entitled to be removed from the Court record as acting. By signing the document the client has left it open for the solicitor to argue they were sacked, entitling them to be paid. Our advice is to seek legal advice before signing such a document.