The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 64-74

December 14, 1964
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
It is improper for an attorney to represent a bank and to be paid by a client whose business was
solicited by the bank and an insurance company.

6, 12, 27, 35

Chairman Smith stated the opinion of the committee:
A member of The Florida Bar inquires:
A bank hires or retains an attorney to process pension plans for the stated
reason that the attorney will protect the bank from poorly drawn pension plans.
The bank retains control of all steps of the procedure with the Internal Revenue
Service in qualifying the plans. The bank will send part of the funds received to a
northern bank for investment and also purchases an insurance policy. The bank
and the insurance company will solicit the business. The pension plans will be
mimeographed forms worked up by the northern bank and sent to the attorney
retained by the bank. The attorney is to receive $300 as fee from the persons
setting up the plan. The bank advises verbally that the fees are the cheapest
obtainable and the plan has already been worked up by the bank. The insurance
company plans to send all customers to the bank from all over the state. The local
bank’s trust officer is verbally advertised as an attorney licensed to practice law in
the State of Florida.
Is it a conflict of interest for an attorney to represent a bank and to be paid by
a client whose business was solicited by the bank and an insurance company?
It is the unanimous opinion of this Committee that a conflict of interest does exist and
that the arrangement proposed is improper.
We have recently responded to a similar inquiry which, we believe, answers the primary
questions which are posed. (Op. 64-71.)
The arrangement which is outlined possibly contains a vice which was not apparent in the
facts stated in our Opinion 64-71. It is indicated that the attorney will receive a set fee for the
services he renders. While it is not necessarily unethical to contract to serve a client for a
specified fee which, because of the volume of work, may be somewhat reduced, care should be
taken to insure that the fee has reasonable relationship to the elements which are outlined in
Canon 12 as pertinent to such matters. Attention must also be given to the considerations which
relate to use of minimum fee scales.