These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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14-Ownership of Files and Attorney Lien Issues

Even if applicable law would allow a lawyer to retain a client's file until the lawyer's bill is paid, the lawyer might be acting unethically by retaining the files (depending on such facts as "the ability of the client to pay the fee, whether the fee is in dispute and the harm to the client if the papers are retained"). [This LEO was overruled by Rule 1.16(e), which governs a lawyer's duty to provide files to a former client.]

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn