Substitution of Attorney Vs Notice to Withdraw

*****Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client privilege.

Rodriguez Law Group, Inc. April 25, 2022

In certain cases, a client or their legal counsel might need or want to end their working relationship. The reasons for this may vary, from conflicts of interest to different business styles, to many other reasons. A notices to withdraw and substitutions of attorney are similar in that they both ways to formally remove a lawyer as legal representative of a party in a case. But the two routes to attorney removal differ procedurally and in circumstances.

A substitution of attorney form in California is the MC-050 form. A substitution of attorney form is actually distinct from the motion to withdraw form for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that it can be used not only to take an attorney off of a case, but it also can be used to switch out counsel or bring an attorney on to your case after beginning in pro per aka representing yourself. A substitution of attorney form is also different because it requires the signature of the client (or party on the case), their current attorney and their former attorney (the one exiting the case).

Because to substitute attorney out of a case necessitating the signature of all parties involved, substitutions of attorney are generally used in cases wherein all parties are agreeing to the change to their counsel.

It is not uncommon however for a client to resist this change to their counsel. For example, an attorney might decide they no longer want to represent their client. A privately practicing attorney might decide they want to exit a case for lack of payment, differences in working style, or perhaps differences in morals or values. An attorney may decide they want to exit a case yet find their client is resisting this change.

An attorney cannot just unanimously and unceremoniously exit a case. If a client refuses to voluntarily sign the substitution of attorney, an attorney must appeal to the court for permission to stop representing the client by filing a motion to withdraw as legal counsel.

Filing and getting approval for a motion to withdraw is lengthier and more complex than the more cooperative approach of using a substitution of attorney.

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