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NYCLA ISSUES ETHICS OPINION 739 ON SPECIALIZED COUNSEL CHARGING FEES FOR SERVICES AS A DISBURSEMENT AGAINST A SETTLEMENT
AUGUST 7, 2008 – NEW YORK, NY- The New York County Lawyers’ Association’s (NYCLA) Professional Ethics Committee has issued Opinion 739, which concludes that it is ethical for a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer to retain specialized counsel to negotiate a client’s Medicare, Medicaid or private health care lien and charge the fee for those services as a disbursement against the settlement.
Traditionally, such liens were negotiated by a personal injury attorney as part of the services rendered in exchange for a contingency fee. However, the increasingly complex laws governing these liens have led to the development of specialized firms that negotiate said liens for a fee.
As stated in the opinion, a lawyer seeking to charge a fee for services as a disbursement must: (a) agree in a written retainer agreement at the outset of the representation that the attorney may do so; (b) pass on the charges (that must be reasonable) to the client at cost; (c) assure that the transaction results in a net benefit to the client on each lien negotiated; (d) also assure that the transaction complies with all principles of substantive law, including the fee limitations on contingent fees in the New York Judiciary Law and Appellate Division rules; and (e) retain responsibility for the overall work product.
The NYCLA Professional Ethics Committee is the oldest bar association ethics committee in the country and was the first to issue written ethics opinions. To download the opinion, visit www.nycla.org and click on News & Publications and then on Ethics Opinions. NYCLA was founded in 1908 as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual identity. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.
To download Ethics Opinion 739 and all other NYCLA ethics opinions, log on to www.nycla.org and click on News & Publications and then on Ethics Opinions.
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