FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
August 22, 1968
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
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.
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.