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Massachusetts Lawyer Cannot Withdraw From Case

When Boston attorneyThomas Kiley decided he was no longer interested in representing a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case he left the client, an alleged victim of medical malpractice and unskilled in the law, without a lawyer, facing the opposing aggressive malpractice attorney. The client could not find another lawyer and made several critical mistakes while trying to navigate his civil case through the courts. The case before the Supreme Judicial Court centered on who had the obligation to keep the client; the attorney or his former law firm. The trial court ruled that Attorney Thomas Kiley had to keep the case.

This might seem fair to the client, however, the issue effects small law firms which takes a big case on contingent fee, and then the lawyer with the knowledge, time and skill for that case leaves. That firm may not have the ability, capacity or financing to continue with the case. The named partner certainly should not be ordered to represent the plaintiff. On the other hand, the Supreme Judicial Court said, the firm entered into the agreement with the client, so the firm, not a particular attorney, must continue to represent the client .

In the case, Michael McGibbon filed a medical malpractice case in 2006. His attorney was Pamela Swift, of the Kiley Law Firm. When Attorney Swift took a leave of absence, she filed a Motion to Withdraw. Unfortunately, McGibbon could not find other counsel; he also prejudiced himself in the search. The Court allowed her motion, but refused to allow Attorney Kiley to “abandon his client” and ruled that his firm must continue to represent McGibbon. “When an attorney who is a partner, shareholder, or employee of a law firm enters an appearance in a civil case, the appearance binds both the individual attorney and that law firm to appear on behalf of the client.” The rule seems to be that when an attorney from the law firm moves to withdraw, the trial Court may insist that the law firm, but not a specific lawyer from that firm, continue to represent the client.