If you want to assert a charging lien in Federal court you better present itemized fee statements or invoices at your hearing or find yourself uncompensated. Keep in mind that a charging lien only attaches to the commencement of some kind of proceeding or appearance. Secondly, we know that the nonpayment of legal fees is a valid basis to granting a motion to withdraw. In other words, it constitutes "good cause" to withdraw.
For almost two years, the outgoing firm in Melnick v. Cary Press, NYLJ, September 4, 2009, p. 34 at col 3, spent an enormous amount of time litigating this case. For eight months, the client-defendant ignored the firm's legal bills. In its motion to be relieved, the firm also sought a determination of its charging lien pursuant to Judiciary Law §475.
Absent an agreement, a discharged attorney may recover the fair and reasonable value of services based on quantum meruit. In Melnick, the court considered the invoices and found them to be in sufficient detail (date, hours spent, nature of work) to meet the threshold for recovery of attorneys fees. The court imposed, however, a 10% reduction in fees because of "block-billing" (clumping activities together without breaking down each activity by precise time; for example, "travel to chicago, worked on brief, argued motion=20 hours").