FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
March 6, 1975
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
A law firm may properly divide fees for referred cases with a lawyer suffering from terminal
illness or the lawyer’s estate in proportion to the services performed by the lawyer referring the
DR 2-107(A)(1), 2-107(A)(2), 3-102(A)(2) and EC 2-22
Vice Chairman Sullivan stated the opinion of the committee:
This inquiry involves the question of division of legal fees.
An attorney who was closing his office and discontinuing his practice
because of a terminal illness referred two cases to the law firm submitting this
inquiry. While the inquiry does not give particulars about the amount of work
performed and responsibility assumed by the referring attorney and by the law
firm to which the cases were referred, it is clear that most of the work and
responsibility was performed and assumed by the latter.
We are asked whether the law firm to which the matters were referred may
properly divide the fees it received for handling those matters with the estate of
the deceased attorney.
In Opinion 72-33 and again in Opinion 73-3, the Committee stated that under DR
2-107(A) a division of fees between lawyers is proper only if the division is made in proportion
to the services performed and responsibilities assumed by each lawyer. That division should bear
a reasonable relationship to the division of services and responsibility, and, of course, the
requirements of DR 2-107(A)(1) and (2) must also be met. EC 2-22 reiterates the same principle
as does DR 3-102(A)(2), which deals with division of fees between a lawyer who completes
unfinished legal business of a deceased lawyer and the deceased lawyer’s estate.
The Committee, then, is of the opinion that the firm to which the cases were referred may
divide the fees it received with the deceased attorney’s estate provided that division is in
proportion to services performed and responsibility assumed by the deceased lawyer and the firm
to which he referred the cases.