The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 75-29

FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
OPINION 75-29
November 30, 1975
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
It is unprofessional and undignified for an attorney to separately charge a client for costs of
secretarial work unless such work is extraordinary or unusual.
CPR:

DR 2-106, EC 2-17, 2-18, 2-19, DR 5-103, and EC 5-8
Vice Chairman Sullivan stated the opinion of the committee:
A member of The Florida Bar asks about the propriety of charging clients as
a cost item for the secretarial time the firm spends for the client on a particular
matter. The charge would be listed separately on the statement sent to the client
and would pass on to the client the cost of the secretary’s salary determined on an
hourly rate.

The Committee is of the opinion that, while the proposal is not specifically prohibited by
the Code of Professional Responsibility (see particularly DR 2-206, EC 2-17, 2-18, 2-19, DR
5-103 and EC 5-8), the proposal is unprofessional and undignified and should be discouraged.
Regular and usual secretarial services have traditionally been considered part of a lawyer’s
overhead expense which the lawyer includes in the fee he charges the client.
We are not suggesting that a lawyer may not charge a client for extra and unusual
secretarial services — for example, overtime work for which a secretary is paid in addition to her
regular salary or for secretarial work incident to the matter the lawyer is handling but which is
not ordinarily done by a legal secretary. But we believe that office overhead — expenses the
lawyer would routinely incur without reference to a particular matter for a particular client —
should be included as an element of the fee charged and not billed as separate cost items.