WORKING FOR FREE?: Court Refuses to Let TCPA Defendant’s Counsel Withdraw From Case And This is a Reminder to Hug Your Lawyer
Friday, December 8, 2023

Being a litigator is a weird gig.

You take on other people’s biggest problems and endless responsibilities. While other professions allow you to take vacations and breaks with no real consequences, the practice of law is different.

Litigators are always under deadlines and ethical obligations that never go away. So in many respects our lives do not belong to us. Just yesterday I missed a funeral I would have really liked to have attended because I was under a federal judge’s deadline. And that’s just how it is.

Thanksgiving? Christmas? Sure you can have those days off– if deadlines owed to clients and courts are met. And courts often life to pressure parties into settlement by setting tight deadlines during the holidays. So you may or may not get to book that holiday travel–and chances are that if you do its at the last minute and subject to change.

Plus we have an obligation to keep privileged information safe under “every peril” to ourselves. Pretty serious.

Then there’s the obligation to quickly report everything that happens in a case and to do quality work, day in and day out. In most professions you can have a bad day with limited consequence– in this sandbox, a bad day could cost your client (and ultimately you) everything.

So you have to keep yourself sharp. Maintain healthy habits and always be ready for battle.

Essentially to be an elite litigator your entire life has to be dedicated to your clients and to the art of war.

As I like to say “we miss our kid’s soccer games so our clients don’t have to.”

Its tough stuff.

In exchange for all of this we ask only one thing– pay your invoices. 

There’s another level to this though.

Little known fact though: once an attorney steps into court for a client they can’t just walk away when they aren’t getting paid. They have to ask the Court’s permission to withdraw–and that is not automatically granted.

Take the TCPA case of Reidt v. Advanced Marketing, 2023 WL 8469772 (W.D. Wisc Dec. 7, 2023).

There the Defendant’s law firm Greenspoon Marder asked to withdraw from the case because ” “[i]rreconcilable differences have arisen between Counsel and [Protect My Car], including with respect to the fulfillment of obligations to Counsel regarding its services.”

Now I have not read the papers here but I assume that is code for “Defendant isn’t paying my bills.” But maybe not. Maybe its code for “Defendant wants me to do something really dumb and I won’t.” Or perhaps its code for “Defendant wants me to work harder than I want to work.” Really I’m not sure.

But the point is… the Court said no.

The Plaintiff in the case objected to the withdraw arguing that it would delay needed discovery pending a trial on arbitration and the Court agreed.

Instead the Court ordered Defendant to start looking for new counsel right away and essentially told Greenspoon they were stuck in the case in the meantime:

Here, the practical effect of allowing Protect My Car’s counsel to withdraw without a successor in place would be to halt all discovery before it begins and, at a minimum, delay a trial on whether Reidt entered the arbitration agreement. To allow the case to proceed efficiently, the court will deny the motion to withdraw for now, but it will hear argument on it at the scheduling conference

In other words, the Court found that allowing Greenspoon out of the case would slow the case down and the Court did not want any delay. So Greenspoon is stuck in the case–and has to work on it–until Defendant finds new counsel.

Pretty incredible, no? In what other profession can someone be forced to work for someone without their consent? Just this one baby.

Greenspoon will eventually be let out of the case, however, and the Court cautioned defendant to speed it up:

Protect My Car is warned that it should secure replacement counsel now, because the court will not compel 
counsel to work this case indefinitely.

 That’s reassuring. 

 

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