A lawyer cannot bill her client for the time spent preparing a motion to withdraw from the client’s case. Lee v. Daniels & Daniels, 264 S.W.3d 273, 278 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2008, pet. denied). In that case, the attorney’s engagement letter said the client would,”pay for all time spent, costs and expenses incident to withdrawal as attorney of record to include, but not limited to, airfare, mileage, motel, and lodging.”
The Court of Appeals held:
Daniels [the attorney] sought reimbursement for all time spent in his efforts to terminate his attorney-client relationship with Cummings [the client] including time spent adversarial to his own client. None of that time was spent engaged in ” legal services” performed or rendered on behalf of Cummings, his client. Instead, Daniels spent that time engaged in services performed for his own benefit. No lawyer could form a reasonable belief that time spent adversarial to the client and in pursuit of the lawyer’s own interests is the rendering of ” legal services” for the client. Thus, no lawyer could form a reasonable belief that fees incident to such time spent were reasonable. Therefore, we hold the particular withdrawal provision at issue here, which because of its broad nature allows the recovery of such fees, is unconscionable and contravenes Texas public policy as a matter of law.
We recognize our holding may impose a burden on a withdrawing attorney with legitimate reasons to terminate the attorney-client relationship. Frankly, however, our ethical and fiduciary obligations require no less. It is simply one of the costs that must be borne by a professional who operates under the mantle of a fiduciary duty. As a professional, an attorney’s relationship to his client is not to be guided by ” the morals of the marketplace.” Otherwise, we relegate our profession to an ordinary business relationship.