The Florida Bar
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PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR

OPINION 70-56
January 8, 1971

Unless full explanation is made to the court, it would be unethical for an attorney to claim reasonable attorney fees for collection of notes when the attorney is retained on salary for that purpose.

CPR: DR 2-106

Chairman Massey stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar is full-time counsel for a corporate collection agency and is paid a regular monthly remuneration. He inquires whether, when he handles collections on promissory notes providing for reasonable attorney's fees, the corporate agency is entitled to a fee and, if so, on what basis should it be set.

Whether or not a client is entitled to a reasonable attorney's fee in those matters handled by house counsel who is paid a monthly salary is essentially a question of law and a court decision would be controlling, providing all facts relating to the fee are correctly presented to the court. However, it would be highly unethical for an attorney to make claim for (as in a pleading) and represent to the court that his client has obligated itself to pay a reasonable attorney's fee for collection when the inquirer is employed on a regular salary basis without regard to the handling of a particular case or cases or to the total number of cases or amounts involved. This is a necessary conclusion as to hold otherwise would allow the inquirer to assert that which simply is not true. Additionally, it would be improper to allow such a situation to exist when there is no way upon which the corporate employer can determine the fee paid to its counsel on a particular case and the opportunity would be available through the attorney to obtain an award of an attorney's fee which exceeds the compensation paid the attorney in the first instance. See CPR DR 2-106.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]