Unlike a criminal defense attorney, a lawyer in a civil action, such as divorce or personal injury, can “quit” with or without consent of the client, especially if the case has not been filed with a court yet. After the case is file and pending before a court, the lawyer must file a notice to the court that they are withdrawing from the case and terminating representation.
There is no ethical violation or breach of the Rules of Professional Responsibilities for withdrawing from representation, if done properly, with notice to the client and the court.
Usually there is a provision or clause in the retainer agreement that covers termination of representation. Read your retainer agreement carefully. The lawyer may also seek any “quantum meruit” fees he may be entitled to for work done on your case. This fee is based on the attorney’s “usual and customary charge for comparable services”, and should be accompanied by a detail statement of service rendered. You are entitled to recover your file from the former attorney.
Criminal defense attorneys must seek permission of the court to withdraw as counsel.