When a lawyer withdraws from a case, steps must be taken to protect your interests. Your lawyer should give you reasonable notice, allow time for you to hire another lawyer, surrender papers and property to which you are entitled and refund any advance payment of fees that have not been earned. The lawyer may keep papers relating to you to the extent permitted by other law, as well as keep a reasonable nonrefundable retainer.
If your bill has been paid and the lawyer will not return your file, you may wish to file a complaint with the Commission on Lawyer Conduct , the agency set up by the South Carolina Supreme Court to hear complaints against lawyers. You can reach the Commission on Lawyer Conduct at (803) 734-2038. Its address is P.O. Box 12159, Columbia, SC 29211.
Assuming your bill has not been paid, the lawyer may place a "lien" on your file. (A lien is a security interest in property, just like the bank has on your car when you take out an auto loan.) In this case, you have a couple of choices:
- a) Send the lawyer a letter requesting a statement of your account. If you agree with the amount, pay it, and the file should be sent to you. If you disagree with the amount, you can contact the South Carolina Bar's Fee Dispute Board, which is set up to resolve disputes over fees. (Forms are available by telephoning the Bar office at (803) 799-6653.) Once this disagreement is resolved and the account settled, your file should be released. If not, you can file a complaint with the Commission on Lawyer Conduct .
- b) Or, if you have hired another lawyer to take over your case, that lawyer can request the file for you.
This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.