The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org
PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR


OPINION 68-37
August 22, 1968


Whether a retaining lien exists is a question of law. If an attorney is entitled to a retaining lien, he may ethically exercise that right. Whether a “forwarding attorney” has any rights to proceeds of litigation being held by another attorney in his trust account is a question of law.

Canons: 11, 34

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:

An attorney advises that he is holding in his trust account the proceeds of a recovery in a litigated case, which is less than the amount presently due himself and a “forwarding attorney” for fees; indeed, the amount in trust is less than the amount claimed to be due the inquirer, but more than that apparently agreed to be owed by the clients to the “forwarding attorney.”

A demand has been made by the other attorney on the inquirer for payment of a portion of the funds in trust, but as yet no consent for application of the funds to the fees due either attorney has been received from the clients. There is an intimation that the withholding of this consent is at the instance of the “forwarding attorney.”

We are asked whether the “forwarding attorney” has any right to the funds in the trust account. This is not only a question of law, but one involving the acts or rights of a person other than the inquirer. Accordingly, it is beyond our jurisdiction.

We are secondly asked whether there is any impropriety in the inquirer refusing to disburse a portion of the funds to the other attorney, the inquirer claiming a retaining lien upon the entire amount in his trust account.

Whether a retaining lien exists is a question of law and one beyond our jurisdiction. However, if an attorney is entitled to a retaining lien, he may ethically exercise that right. We regret that the limitations on our jurisdiction preclude us from expressing a further opinion.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]