Advisory Opinion: 1721

Year Issued: 1997

RPC(s): RPC 1.3; 1.15

Subject: Diligence; duties upon withdrawal; fee agreement permitting lawyer to cease work in case of nonpayment of fees

[The lawyer asked about the propriety of the following language in a fee agreement: "If any balance remains unpaid for more than 30 days, attorney reserves the right to do no further work on the matter, with or without withdrawing as attorney, and regardless of the effect it may have upon the outcome of the above matter."] The Committee has proposed that the fee language does not meet the minimum standards set forth in the Rules of Professional Conduct and you are prohibited from putting into a fee agreement that which is in violation of the RPCs. In addition, the language in the contemplated fee agreement does not constitute a proper withdrawal under RPC 1.15. If you do withdraw, you must comply with RPC 1.15(d). Doing nothing does not comply with RPC 1.3 or 1.15. An attorney has an obligation to represent the client diligently until the attorney has properly withdrawn under RPC 1.15.


Advisory Opinions are provided for the education of the Bar and reflect the opinion of the Committee on Professional Ethics (CPE) or its predecessors. Advisory Opinions are provided pursuant to the authorization granted by the Board of Governors, but are not individually approved by the Board and do not reflect the official position of the Bar association. Laws other than the Washington State Rules of Professional Conduct may apply to the inquiry. The Committee's answer does not include or opine about any other applicable law other than the meaning of the Rules of Professional Conduct.