The Florida Bar

June 15, 1965

A lawyer may not advance living expenses to a client pending settlement and collection of a claim, judgment, or award.

Canons: 6, 10
Opinions: ABA 288, NY City 779

Chairman Smith stated the opinion of the committee:

In fine, a member of The Florida Bar inquires if it is unethical for an attorney to advance money to a client for living expenses while awaiting payment of the client's claim against a third party. Further, he asks us to assume that the client badly needs the money for basic necessities and inquires if it would make a difference (1) if there was no dispute as to liability, the third party was financially responsible at the time, and the client was simply waiting to determine the result of medical treatment or (2) if settlement had been agreed upon and the attorney was merely awaiting receipt of the release and draft.

This Committee has considered and answered the same inquiry, or ones quite similar, on several occasions. Canon 6 provides that an attorney should not allow himself to be placed in inconsistent positions and Canon 10 prohibits an attorney from acquiring a financial interest in the subject matter of litigation he is handling. The member indicates his awareness of Opinion 288 of the Professional Ethics Committee of the American Bar Association and the holding therein that an attorney may not ethically lend or advance living expenses to clients during the pendency of personal injury actions even though the clients are injured and cannot work. The same conclusion has been reached by a similar committee for the Bar Association of the City of New York, Opinion 779.

This Committee heretofore has agreed with the views expressed in the opinions aforementioned. It continues to do so. Further, it is our opinion that the additional circumstances stated in this inquiry do not prompt a different response in either case posed.

The rule prohibiting an attorney from acquiring a financial interest in the litigation of a client has proved to be of benefit both to the public and the bar. The plight of a client undoubtedly will invoke the sympathies of his attorney from time to time. In our opinion, however, the solution does not lie in relaxing a salutary ethical standard. Generally the lawyer can assist his client in obtaining the essential financial support from appropriate sources and/or can assist in postponing payment of outstanding debts. This would be particularly true in those cases when payment of third party claims is assured. In those cases where such solution is not possible the remedy, in our opinion, does not lie in alteration of the Canons of Ethics.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]