The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 76-29

April 26, 1977
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
An attorney representing a client in a tort action has no ethical duty to divide the fee with the
client’s first attorney after his discharge, unless the attorney’s fee arrangement with the client
contained a provision for such a division with the first attorney.
Vice Chairman Taylor stated the opinion of the committee:
An inquiring attorney states that he was consulted with reference to a tort
claim by a person then represented by another attorney whose services were
considered unsatisfactory. The inquirer advised the client that he would undertake
to represent her only if she discharged her first attorney, which she did.
Thereupon the inquirer requested the first attorney to send him his file on the
matter. The first attorney refused unless the second attorney would agree to retain
for him “40% of 40% of any settlement.” The inquirer refused and handled the
case without the benefit of any information from the first attorney’s files.
The first attorney has requested one third of the inquirer’s fee and when this was refused
asked for a statement of time expended and services performed by him for the client.
We are requested to render an opinion as to the ethical responsibility of the inquirer to the
first attorney. The answer is: “none,” assuming, of course, that the fee arrangement between the
inquirer and the client contained no provision for payment to the first attorney of any part of the
fee agreed upon between them.
We express no opinion as to the legal rights and responsibilities between the client and
the first attorney.