The Florida Bar

August 29, 1962

A lawyer should not be subject to disciplinary proceedings for refusal to pay a forwarding fee to a collection agency.

Canons: Additional Rule 22, Canon 34
Opinion: ABA 294

Chairman Holcomb stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar calls our attention to the Additional Rules Governing the Conduct of Attorneys in Florida, Section 22, second paragraph, reading: “But nothing contained in this rule shall be construed as prohibiting the division of fees with a forwarder of business whether such forwarder be an attorney or a reputable collection agency.”

He states that a collection agency referred a claim to an attorney, who collected the claim after suit, paid the client, sent a check to the collection agency as forwarder and then stopped payment on the grounds that he could not ethically pay a layman a fee. The question is whether under these circumstances he can be disciplined.

It is our opinion that an attorney cannot be subject to disciplinary proceedings for refusing to pay a forwarding fee to a collection agency inasmuch as the applicable Canons prohibit payment of a forwarding fee to a layman. It may be that the attorney would be subjected to civil liability by virtue of his apparent agreement to pay a forwarding fee, but that is not a matter of concern to this Committee.

We do not know under what conditions the claim was forwarded and would refer to ABA Opinion 294 adopted June 21, 1958, appearing in the American Bar Journal of April, 1962 at page 383.

It is our belief that the second paragraph of Rule 22 should be eliminated or amended.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]