LEO: Fees: Splitting Fees with a Disabled  LE Op. 1111


Fees: Splitting Fees with a Disabled Lawyer Whose License Has

Been Suspended.


August 1, 1988


You wish to know whether your firm may honor a fee split arrangement with

an attorney who, during the pendency of an action, became disabled to

practice law due to a mental disability and whose license was suspended.

There is no allegation of wrongdoing surrounding the suspension and the

personal injury case which is the subject of the fee was settled after the

original lawyer became disabled.


 DR:3-102(A) provides that "A lawyer or law firm shall not share legal

fees with a non-lawyer except ..." in three circumstances, none of which

are applicable to the present fact situation. Two of these provisions

provide for payment to a deceased lawyer and the third pertains to payment

to nonlawyer employees of a law firm in a compensation or retirement plan.

The Committee has previously opined that it is improper for an attorney

taking over for a disbarred attorney to divide a contingency fee with the

disbarred attorney prior to the revocation of his license when the fee is

received following the revocation of the other attorney's license. ( LE

Op. 809 and LE Op. 934) The Committee has also previously opined that it

is improper for a law firm to compensate a lawyer who has surrendered his

license for work performed on files by the lawyer prior to the surrender

of his license. ( LE Op. 970)


The present situation does not fall within these prior opinions since no

misconduct underlies the suspension of the attorney's license. However,

the Committee opines that even though the attorney's license was suspended

for mental disability rather than any wrongdoing, the attorney is still a "

nonlawyer" for purposes of DR:3-102(A). Therefore, it would be improper

to divide the contingency fee with the attorney whose license is suspended

when the fee is received following the suspension of the other attorney's



Committee Opinion August 1, 1988