Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the Florida Bar Board of Governor’s (BOG) direction to its ethics committee to prepare a draft advisory opinion addressing fee arrangements between qualifying providers and participating lawyers which comply with amended Florida Bar Rule 4-7.22, which substantially revises the requirements for qualifying providers. The amended rule becomes effective on April 30, 2018. The Supreme Court opinion implementing the amended rule (and others) is here: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2018/sc16-1470.pdf
The BOG directed its Review Committee on Professional Ethics to consider a proposed advisory opinion after receiving an inquiry by a Florida Bar member. The BOG committee will consider the opinion at a meeting scheduled for May 18, 2018, from 1-3 p.m. at the Westin hotel in Key West and the draft opinion will be Proposed Advisory Opinion 17-2.
There is currently no draft opinion; however, the proposed advisory opinion will address different types of fee arrangements between for-profit qualifying providers and lawyer referral services who are otherwise in compliance with Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and participating lawyers. The Florida Bar rules prohibit lawyers from sharing fees with private for-profit qualifying providers.
The draft advisory opinion may address various fee arrangements, including:
- set fees paid to the qualifying provider on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis;
- set fees paid to the qualifying provider for each case referred to the participating lawyer;
- set fees paid to the qualifying provider for each case referred to a participating lawyer depending upon the type of matter (e.g., personal injury, family law);
- set fees paid to the qualifying provider for each case accepted by the participating lawyer;
- set fees paid to the qualifying provider for each case accepted by the participating lawyer depending on the type of matter (e.g., personal injury, family law);
- fees paid to the qualifying provider based upon the perceived value of the case referred to the participating lawyer;
- set fees paid to the qualifying provider depending upon the perceived value of a type of matter referred to participating lawyers; and
- fees paid to the qualifying provider which are a percentage of the recovery or percentage of the fee charged by the participating lawyer.
Pursuant to Florida Bar Procedures, Florida Bar members may comment on the proposed opinion. Any comments must contain Proposed Advisory Opinion number 17-2, must clearly state the issues for the committee to consider, may offer suggestions for additional fee arrangements to be addressed by the proposed advisory opinion, and may include a proposed conclusion. Comments should be submitted to Elizabeth Clark Tarbert, Ethics Counsel, The Florida Bar, 651 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee 32399-2300, and must be postmarked no later than 30 days from the notice in the April 15, 2018 issue of The Florida Bar News.
Bottom line: The amended rule substantially change the current rules related to lawyer referrals and the Board of Governors has now initiated the process of identifying various fee arrangements between lawyers and qualifying providers which may or may not comply with the new rules. Any lawyers who participate in (or are considering participating in) referrals from a private entity should carefully review the new rules, since lawyers can be prosecuted if the referral service (qualifying provider) fails to comply with the amended Bar rule(s).
Be careful out there.
Disclaimer: this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
29605 U.S. Highway 19, N., Suite 150
Clearwater, Florida 33761
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670