Attorney Referral Fee Laws in Florida

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What Are Attorney Referral Fees? Are They Allowed in Florida?

A referral fee for attorneys may be appropriate when one lawyer passes a case or a client on to another lawyer. In such cases, the lawyer accepting the case may often pay the referring party a referral fee for them passing the work onto them. In some cases, lawyers may work with referral services, though these can be inefficient and burdened at times due to restrictive laws on referral agencies.

Ethics and professional conduct laws generally allow referrals to be paid from one lawyer to another. However, they cannot pay referral fees to people who are not licensed attorneys. This is also the general rule in the state of Florida. In situations involving lawyer referral fees, the client needs to be informed of the fee arrangement and must agree to it in writing.

What Is “Partial Participation” with Regards to Referral Fees?

In practice, most Florida attorneys exercise a “partial participation” rule when it comes to referral fees. That is, the referring attorney needs to “participate” or do something other than submit the referral in order to qualify for a referral fee. Rules regarding what constitutes “participation” may not be very specific, but it could be something as simple as assisting with phone calls. This is different from other states such as California that exercise “bare naked” referral fees, in which the referring lawyer does not need to do anything additional in order to collect.

Also, Florida laws generally limit referral fees to 25% of the total fee. This means that the referring lawyer can collect a maximum of 25% of the overall fee, while the lawyer accepting the case is legally required to collect at least 75 % of it.  Referral fees that are more than 25% of the total fee are considered to be “excessive” legal fees and may be subject to scrutiny by the courts.

What If the Lawyers Are from Different Firms?

In Florida, lawyers from different firms can still engage in referral fee practices, and they can still even split some of the work on a case. In such cases, there again needs to be a written agreement signed by the client. Also, the division of fees needs to be proportionate to the work to be done by each attorney. The division of fees also needs to be reasonable in light of the case at hand.

Florida is also unique as a state in that it often experiences interstate legal issues, as it is a common travel and vacation destination. Some cases require cooperation between Florida attorneys and out-of-state attorneys. There may be special guidelines for these types of cases as well.

Failure to abide by these requirements can seriously damage a Florida lawyer’s reputation and can lead to sanctions, malpractice, and other issues. Clients who notice that they have not been informed of special fee arrangements should take note of such discrepancies, as it can affect the process and outcome of their case.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Attorney Referral Fees in Florida?

Attorney ethics and professional responsibility rules are very strict when it comes to lawyer/client fees and attorney referral fees. It may be in your best interests to hire a Florida lawyer if you have a case in Florida that needs attention. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice and representation for your claim. If your case needs to be transferred to a different attorney, there may be fee referral issues involved. Be sure to make inquiries if you have questions regarding your rights in such situations.

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Last Modified: 10-04-2016 01:55 PM PDT

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