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An Ethics Roadmap for Referrals

As the January Illinois Bar Journal cover story makes clear, good referrals serve the interests of lawyers and clients alike. In her column in the January issue, ISBA assistant counsel Bailey Felts enumerates the key ethics rules you'll need to consult before heading down the referral road.

Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5(e) allows referrals and a division of fees if three requirements are met: (1) the division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer, or if the primary service performed by one lawyer is the referral of the client to another lawyer and each lawyer assumes joint financial responsibility for the representation; (2) the client agrees to the arrangement, including the share each lawyer will receive, and the agreement is confirmed in writing; and (3) the total fee is reasonable.

Rule 5.4(a) provides that except in very limited circumstances, a lawyer may not share fees with a non-lawyer.

Finally -- and consider this before you use a for-profit referral service -- Rule 7.2(b) states as follows: "A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer's services except that a lawyer may: (1) pay the reasonable costs of advertisements or communications permitted by this Rule; (2) pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a not-for-profit lawyer referral service; (3) pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17; and (4) refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer professional pursuant to an agreement not otherwise prohibited under these Rules that provides for the other person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer, if (i) the reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive, and (ii) the client is informed of the existence and nature of the agreement."

Find out more in the January IBJ ethics column.

 

Posted on January 17, 2018 by Mark S. Mathewson
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