Termination of an Engagement Should be Evidenced in Writing

It is important that a lawyer or law firm clearly articulating the scope of a representation in an engagement letter and timely drafting and sending termination letters closing the file and ending the representation. If a firm intends a representation to be limited to a discreet matter, the engagement letter should specifically define the parameters of that matter and indicate that additional representations outside the scope of the engagement will be covered by separate engagement letters. Where, out of an abundance of caution, a firm elects to send a termination letter sometime after the representation has concluded, the letter should state that the representation ended at the completion of the matter and that the letter is intended only to confirm the prior termination. If it becomes necessary to end the ongoing representation, the termination letter should specifically indicate when the relationship terminates (e.g., “effective immediately”). In all cases, whether the attorney-client relationship is structured as a series of discreet representations or as a single ongoing representation, firms should tailor their engagement letters and termination letters to the particular representation at hand. It is also critical that confirmation of termination be completed before the commencement of representation in a matter adverse to the now former client. Failure to do so could lead to disqualification. See, e.g., McClain v Allstate Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., Case No. 3:16CV843- TSL-RHW (S.D. Miss. Northern Div., April 25, 2017) (lawyer disqualified when termination letter sent one day after execution of engagement agreement with new client).