The Florida Bar

June 29, 1962

It would be unethical for a Florida lawyer to divide any portion of his fee with an out-of-state lawyer who was not in practice and did not participate in the handling of the case.

Canons: 34, 38

Vice-Chairman Smith stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar submits an inquiry wherein he states that a former member of the New Jersey Bar, who is no longer practicing law but is now a minister, brought to his office a member of the congregation for legal services. In privacy, the minister advised him of a desire to participate in the fee as referring attorney because of the fact that he was a member of the New Jersey Bar and had formerly practiced law in that state.

It is the opinion of the committee that any division of the fee under these circumstances would be highly improper. Canon 34 of the Canons of Professional Ethics provides:

No division of fees for legal services is proper, except with another lawyer based upon a division of service or responsibility.

In the situation presented to us, it is impossible that there be a division of service or responsibility between lawyers relative to the services rendered inasmuch as the minister is not a practitioner and in no way gave of his legal talents to the client. Further, Canon 38 of the Canons of Professional Ethics provides that a lawyer should accept no compensation, commissions, rebates or other advantages from others without the knowledge and consent of his client after full disclosure. Even if the minister were to claim the status of a lawyer in this situation, he would apparently be acting in a manner directly contrary to the provision of Canon 38.

Under the circumstances, we think it would be highly improper for a referral fee to be paid.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]