FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
August 16, 1973
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
A lawyer handling a legal aid case may be granted a court-awarded fee even though the lawyer
intends to turn the fee over to the legal aid association. But upon requesting the fee, the lawyer
must disclose that he is handling the case under the legal aid program. Whether the fee should be
awarded is a question for the court to determine.
Vice Chairman Daniels stated the opinion of the committee:
A county bar association has established a legal aid program under which
members of the association represent persons on a voluntary basis in litigation. In
some cases, a common law statutory right exists to seek attorney’s fees from the
opposing party. Under the association’s standing policy, any fees awarded are
turned over to the association. Inquiry is made as to whether lawyers may request
court-awarded fees and whether they should disclose to the courts the fact that
they are serving under the legal aid program if such fees are requested. A minority
of the Committee believes that it is not proper for a lawyer to request a
court-awarded fee in cases handled under a legal aid program. However, a
majority of the Committee believes that a fee may properly be requested under
such circumstances and that:
1. A lawyer may agree with the association that any fees awarded be turned
over to the association; and
2. Upon requesting a fee, the lawyer must disclose to the court that he is
handling the matter under the legal aid program.
Whether the court should award a fee in a given case is a question of law for the court to
determine rather than a legal ethics question.