Is My Bankruptcy Lawyer Legally Required to Keep Representing Me?

26 Sep Is My Bankruptcy Lawyer Legally Required to Keep Representing Me?

Here’s a topic you’ll hardly ever see discussed anywhere: is a bankruptcy lawyer required by law to continue representing a client in a bankruptcy proceeding, even if the client won’t or can’t pay the lawyer any more fees?

You might be surprised to learn that in most federal court districts, the answer is yes, the lawyer must continue representing the bankruptcy client, unless and until the court releases the lawyer from the case — whether or not the lawyer is being paid.

For example, in Minnesota, Local Bankruptcy Rule 9010-3(e)(4) reads as follows:

  • Until a substitution of attorneys is filed or an order is entered allowing the original attorney to withdraw, the original attorney is the client’s attorney of record and the original attorney shall represent the attorney’s client in bringing and defending all matters or proceedings in the bankruptcy case other than adversary proceedings in which the original attorney has not yet made an appearance. Failure to receive advance payment or guarantee of attorney’s fees is not grounds for failure to comply with this subsection.

There it is, in black and white: a bankruptcy lawyer is required to represent the client’s interests, and defend or bring motions on the client’s behalf, no matter what — until released by the court after a motion and hearing on that subject.

To be sure, it’s best to communicate effectively with your lawyer, and to avoid disputes over fees or anything else. Additionally, the above referenced rule does allow a lawyer to seek an order releasing him or her from the case, and courts frequently do release lawyers from bankruptcy cases over fee disputes.

The point of the rule is that a bankruptcy client will never show up in court alone, unless an order has been granted releasing the lawyer from the case.

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Craig W. Andresen is a consumer bankruptcy lawyer in Bloomington, Minnesota, with 22 years’ experience in consumer and small business bankruptcy cases. He is the Minnesota chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Section. Mr. Andresen lectures often on the topic of consumer bankruptcy at local and national legal seminars.
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