The Florida Bar
OPINION 74-50A lawyer may not participate in an arrangement with a title company whereby the title company prepares a title commitment to which the lawyer adds an endorsement and the title company remits a substantial percentage of the title insurance fee to the lawyer without full notice to the client.
March 26, 1975
March 26, 1975
Note: See Opinion 75-27
CPR: DR 2-106
Vice Chairman Daniels stated the opinion of the committee:
A lawyer was contacted by a title insurance company seeking to establish a program whereby the following would occur:
1. The lawyer would ask the title company for a commitment.
2. The title company then prepares and signs by its authorized in-house agent a title commitment in usual form and sends same to the attorney, accompanied, however, by a photocopy of the title company's search.
3. The lawyer then spends whatever time he wishes "looking at the search."
4. The attorney adds a stamped or typed endorsement to the commitment stating that the title appears to be the way the title company says it is and signs his name.
5. Finally, the title company "remits a substantial percentage of the title insurance fee" to the lawyer.
We are asked whether a lawyer may properly participate in such a program. The program as outlined above is improper for at least two separate and distinct reasons. First, the program does not provide for notice to the client of the lawyer's financial interest and motivation in using the particular title company. Full disclosure to the client is mandatory. Cf. Opinion 73-1.
Secondly, the "fee" paid to the lawyer by the title company bears no relationship to the services performed and, depending on the circumstances, might be little more than a "kickback." Lawyers can only accept compensation for services rendered and the charges for services must comply with the provisions of DR 2-106.