Attorney Referral Fee Laws in Illinois
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What Is an Attorney Referral Fee?
An attorney referral fee is the money that an attorney pays to another lawyer who has referred a legal case to them. These types of referral agreements are generally allowed under Illinois state laws, which have adopted versions of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and other professional conduct guidelines.
However, these guidelines do prohibit attorneys from paying referral fees to non-lawyers who have referred cases or clients to them. There are also special requirements for referral services and agencies. In an attorney referral fee arrangement, the client must be informed of the fee situation and must agree in writing.
What Are the Requirements When It Comes to Attorney Referral Fees in Illinois?
If the attorneys involved in the referral situation are not from the same firm, Illinois state law requires that:
- The client is advised of the referral fee arrangement in writing and agrees to it
- The client is informed through the writing regarding the shares each attorney is to receive
- Divisions of fees need to be in proportion to the work performed by each lawyer
- The overall fee is “reasonable", not excessive or unconscionable
In Illinois, it is also acceptable in some cases for the referring attorney to not take on any additional work on the case. Here, Illinois ethics rules require that the each lawyer assumes and maintains joint financial responsibility for the representation. This means that the referring lawyer must agree to remain financially responsible for services rendered to the client, but they do not have to continue to assist in a non-financial capacity.
Other Legal Issues to Consider with Illinois Attorney Referral Fees
In addition to these requirements, there are a few other legal issues to consider if you will be involved in an attorney referral situation. These include:
- Time-sensitive issues: Legal cases often have filing deadlines and various other time windows for submitting documents. Be careful that these deadlines are not overlooked, as the process of have a case transferred from one attorney to another can consume valuable time.
- Lawyer competency: Lawyers are generally required to refer cases only to lawyers who are deemed competent to take on the case. This means that they must be licensed, in good standing with the Illinois State Bar, and have the experience and capability to provide adequate representation.
Lastly, failure to follow attorney referral fee guidelines can result in sanctions, malpractice claims, and other issues for the attorney. These can also affect the case negatively, in which case the attorney(s) may become liable for losses experienced by their client.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for My Case?
In some cases, it may be necessary or advantageous for a lawyer to refer your case to another lawyer. In such cases, you, as the client, need to be fully informed of all aspects of the referral agreement, and you must agree to it completely. If you have any questions or legal concerns, you may need to hire a qualified lawyer in your area. Your attorney can help explain your rights and provide you with the legal representation that is needed for your case.
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Last Modified: 01-07-2015 03:54 PM PST
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