NUMBER 372 1945
Question. A New York attorney has an arrangement with a Florida attorney (who is also a member of the New York Bar) whereby the Florida attorney maintains, in the New York attorney’s suite, a New York office for handling Florida matters. The Florida attorney spends two or three months each year in New York, and he has handled some Florida matters for the New York attorney. The New York attorney now contemplates sending out notices, to his clients only, announcing that the Florida attorney will collaborate with him on matters involving Florida law. Such services as can be performed in New York would be performed by the New York attorney, and those involving Florida law, or which must be done in Florida, would be performed by the Florida attorney. The New York attorney would arrange the fee with the client; this would be divided one-third and two-thirds, unless the New York attorney performs substantial services, which would justify more than one-third of the total fee.
Is the proposed fee arrangement professionally proper?
May the New York attorney properly send out the proposed announcement?
Answer. Insofar as the proposed arrangement contemplates that the New York attorney should receive a minimum one-third of the total fee, rather than such amount (if any) as would be “based upon a division of service or responsibility, “the arrangement would contravene Canon 34 (A.B.A. Opinion 204).
The proposed announcement does not vary materially from that considered by this Committee in Opinion 341 and condemned as being: “. . . a method by which a New York lawyer would act as a paid solicitor to procure business for a foreign lawyer,” save that there the announcement was sent out to lawyers only (the New York Bar), whereas in the present case it would be sent to the New York lawyer’s clients. While the sending of such an announcement to certain clients might be “warranted by personal relations (Canon 27), this Committee does not think that, in the ordinary case, this would be true if the announcement were sent indiscriminately to all the clients of the New York attorney. Doubtless in a general characterization of all clients, the announcement would be calculated to reach many clients, where the nature of the announcement would not be relevant to the kind of work previously performed for those clients (A.B.A. Opinion 213), and where there would be no such personal relations with the clients as would justify sending them the proposed announcement.