Can Attorneys Accept Referral Fees from Other Attorneys?
Referral fees from attorney to attorney may be allowed when an attorney passes a case or a client to another attorney. In these cases, the attorney accepting the case may often pay the referring party a referral fee for them passing the work onto them. In cases where a secondary attorney has a co-counsel relationship for the specific case, the secondary attorney shall not be entitled to a fee greater than a maximum 25% of the total fee; Any fee in excess of the 25% will be considered excessive. In cases where there is no co-counsel relationship, the need for court approval of a referral fee arrangement only occurs in a small percentage of cases. In these cases, the court approval occurs prior to the commencement of litigation or at the onset of the representation. However, in cases where litigation or representation has begun, approval of the fee division should be sought within a reasonable time after the need for court approval of the fee division.
Can Attorneys Accept Referral Fees from Non-Lawyers?
The Florida Rules of Professional Responsibility do not authorize a lawyer to give anything of value to a non-lawyer in return for recommending that attorney’s legal services. Not only is a referral fee to a non-lawyer unethical, it also violates the disciplinary rules. There is one exception, however, that being commercial advertisements. A Florida attorney is permitted to advertise his or her firm to the public, through various sorts of platforms. An attorney is then allowed to make a reasonable payment for those flyers, billboards, or television commercials they opt to have advertise their legal services.
What is a Reciprocal Referral Arrangement?
While an attorney may not outrightly induce someone into giving them a referral in exchange for money, attorneys are permitted to enter into reciprocal referral fees with both attorneys and other professionals, such as doctors. However, the Florida Rules of Professional Responsibility places several conditions on the referral arrangements. The referral arrangement must not be exclusive, the referred client must be told of the arrangement, and the arrangement must not interfere with the attorney’s professional judgment. Additionally, the arrangement should be reviewed periodically.
How do these rules relate to such websites as Lawyer.com in Florida? It appears that all attorneys automatically have a free listing and receive periodic notices of people seeking representation. Attorneys can pay a monthly fee for expanded access to such prospective clients. I can’t believe that there are NO Florida attorneys that pay the monthly fee.