The Florida Bar

October 20, 1967

An attorney may not refer clients to an insurance carrier to procure insurance and thereafter without knowledge of the client be compensated by the carrier upon a sale of insurance.

Note: See Opinion 70-13, which indicates that an attorney may receive a fee for referring a client to a financial institution provided that the client consents after full disclosure and the client receives the benefit of the referral fee.

Canons: 34, 35
Opinions: 64-33, 64-70, 67-10, 67-11

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar poses the following inquiry:

May an attorney in Florida recommend persons to insurance carriers and simultaneously describe in a brief form a proposed insurance contract with the knowledge that the insurance company is to pay what amounts to a referral fee for each contract actually sold to those recommended?

This proposal is such that the attorney involved would write a letter of recommendation, although he would not recommend the company or the program. He would be a contact man and would furnish sufficient information about prospective policy holders to the company.

The prospective policy holders, to whom the insurance company was introduced, would not be aware, ordinarily, that the attorney was making money from the referral.

The precise nature of the recommendation and proposal are not clearly stated. However, it is our assumption that at least in a significant number of instances the procedure outlined would amount to an attorney referring existing clients, or persons reposing confidence or trust in him, to an insurance carrier for the purpose of procuring insurance with the result that without the knowledge of the client the insurance company upon a sale would compensate the lawyer for his referral.

We have previously discussed the relationships involving life insurance sales and attorney s in a number of opinions, including our Opinions 64-33, 64-70, 67-10 [since withdrawn] and 67-11. In light of these opinions we have no hesitancy in concluding that the arrangement described is completely inconsistent with the duty owed by a lawyer to the client, is devoid of fairness and candor, and is to be condemned as a departure from the ethical standards expected of a lawyer.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]