A legal practitioner can terminate an engagement where his best endeavours to restrain and prevent his client from committing any breach of the law is undermined; or withdraw if it can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the client’s interests or if the client persists in a course of action that the legal practitioner reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent.
A scenario where a client insists on taking actions that a Counsel considers repugnant; the client consistently disregards an obligation as to payment for expenses, or a fundamental disagreement by repeatedly undermining the instructions of his Counsel by communicating unconfirmed information of the adverse party and involving the national dailies via visual and print media as well as radio stations is preposterous.
The lawyer has the prerogative and a good cause to terminate such engagement, but with reasonable notice for Client to engage another lawyer.
In Nigeria, Part B of the RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT FOR LEGAL PRACTITIONERS, 2007 provides for the withdrawal from employment by a lawyer. Rule 21 (1) (2) (b) (c) (d) & (3) states as follows:
21.(1) A lawyer shall not abandon or withdraw an employment once assumed except for good cause.
(2) Good cause for which the lawyer may be justified in withdrawing from the client’s employment includes the following-
(b) where the client insists on an unjust or immoral course in the conduct of his case;
(c) if the client persists against the lawyer’s advice and remonstrance in pressing frivolous defences; or
(d) if the client deliberately disregards an agreement or obligation as to payment of fees or expenses.
(3) Where the lawyer is justified in withdrawing from the employment, he shall give reasonable notice to the client allowing him time to employ another lawyer.
It is evident that legal representation may be withdrawn if the client refuses to abide by the terms of an agreement relating to the representation.