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Jumping ship: R. v. Cunningham and the lawyer's right to withdraw

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Introduction: It has never been in the best traditions of the criminal bar to quit a client over money. Having gone on the record as counsel for an accused, the lawyer is, as a matter of professional dignity, expected to have sorted out financial matters with the client in advance, and it is seen as unseemly for the lawyer to abandon the client over non-payment. Some Canadian codes of conduct clearly prohibit the criminal defence lawyer from withdrawing due to nonpayment of fees where withdrawal would potentially prejudice the client. Other codes make it clear that such withdrawal is frowned upon. The codes of conduct send a cautionary message to the lawyer: \"Don't go on the record as counsel for an accused unless you're prepared to see them through to the end of the trial, whether they pay you or not.\" The lawyer's overriding obligations to ensure access to justice and to provide servicespro bono to indigent clients support the absence of an unfettered right to withdraw for nonpayment of fees.

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  • Type of Item
    Article (Published)
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  • License
    © 2011 UBC Law Review Society. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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  • Citation for previous publication
    • Acorn, A. (2011). Jumping ship: R. v. Cunningham and the lawyer's right to withdraw. UBC Law Review, 44(2), 381-405. Retrieved from
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