The Florida Bar
April 26, 1977
An attorney representing a client in a tort action has no ethical duty to divide the fee with the client's first attorney after his discharge, unless the attorney's fee arrangement with the client contained a provision for such a division with the first attorney.

Vice Chairman Taylor stated the opinion of the committee:

An inquiring attorney states that he was consulted with reference to a tort claim by a person then represented by another attorney whose services were considered unsatisfactory. The inquirer advised the client that he would undertake to represent her only if she discharged her first attorney, which she did. Thereupon the inquirer requested the first attorney to send him his file on the matter. The first attorney refused unless the second attorney would agree to retain for him "40% of 40% of any settlement." The inquirer refused and handled the case without the benefit of any information from the first attorney's files.

The first attorney has requested one third of the inquirer's fee and when this was refused asked for a statement of time expended and services performed by him for the client.

We are requested to render an opinion as to the ethical responsibility of the inquirer to the first attorney. The answer is: "none," assuming, of course, that the fee arrangement between the inquirer and the client contained no provision for payment to the first attorney of any part of the fee agreed upon between them.

We express no opinion as to the legal rights and responsibilities between the client and the first attorney.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]