Legal Ethics Opinion #1581
      Conflict of Interest - Avoiding Influence By Others
      Than the Client: Lawyer Receiving Fee, from Company, for
      Having Referred Clients Who Hold Commercial Paper.  
      You have presented a hypothetical situation in which a
    company, operated by nonlawyers, wishes to buy notes and other
    forms of commercial paper which are secured by real estate.
    The company proposes to offer lawyers a fee/commission for
    referring clients that hold such paper.
      You have asked the committee to opine whether, under the
    facts of the inquiry, a lawyer's referral of a client, and
    acceptance of a fee/commission, is unethical. You also ask
    whether the propriety would be impacted by the lawyer's
    disclosure of the fee/commission to the client.
      The appropriate and controlling Disciplinary Rule related to
    your inquiry is  DR:5-106(A) (2), which states that except
    with the consent of his client after full and adequate
    disclosure under the circumstances, a lawyer shall not accept
    from one other than his client anything of value related to
    his representation of or his employment by his client. See
    also  DR:5-101(A) (absent full disclosure to and consent from
    the client, a lawyer may not accept employment if the exercise
    of his professional judgment on behalf of the client may lie
    affected by the lawyer's own financial, business, property, or
    personal interests).
      The committee is of the opinion that the situation described
    is analogous to an attorney's receipt of a portion of his
    client's real estate agent's commission. See LE Op. 209 The
    committee further believes that the commission is a nonlegal
    fee. Thus, the committee opines that it would not be improper
    for the attorney to make such a referral, and accept such a
    fee, provided there is full disclosure to, and consent from,
    the client and further provided that the attorney does not
    advise the client with respect to the transaction with the
    third party.
      Committee Opinion
      February 8, 1994