The Florida Bar

November 30, 1975
It is unprofessional and undignified for an attorney to separately charge a client for costs of secretarial work unless such work is extraordinary or unusual.

CPR: DR 2-106, EC 2-17, 2-18, 2-19, DR 5-103, and EC 5-8

Vice Chairman Sullivan stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar asks about the propriety of charging clients as a cost item for the secretarial time the firm spends for the client on a particular matter. The charge would be listed separately on the statement sent to the client and would pass on to the client the cost of the secretary's salary determined on an hourly rate.

The Committee is of the opinion that, while the proposal is not specifically prohibited by the Code of Professional Responsibility (see particularly DR 2-206, EC 2-17, 2-18, 2-19, DR 5-103 and EC 5-8), the proposal is unprofessional and undignified and should be discouraged. Regular and usual secretarial services have traditionally been considered part of a lawyer's overhead expense which the lawyer includes in the fee he charges the client.

We are not suggesting that a lawyer may not charge a client for extra and unusual secretarial services - for example, overtime work for which a secretary is paid in addition to her regular salary or for secretarial work incident to the matter the lawyer is handling but which is not ordinarily done by a legal secretary. But we believe that office overhead - expenses the lawyer would routinely incur without reference to a particular matter for a particular client - should be included as an element of the fee charged and not billed as separate cost items.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]