Attorney Referrals – Burger Law
Burger Law frequently co-counsels with lawyers throughout the Midwest in personal injury cases.
What many lawyers don’t realize is that the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct promote referrals and co-counsel relationships.
Rule 4-1.1 tells us that clients are best served by an attorney with the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for competent representation.
Moreover, Rule 1.5(e) helps facilitate fee splitting and ensures fees are split in a manner that is fair to both attorneys. Both of these rules were designed to ensure that a client in need has the best possible lawyer for their case.
We share contingency fees with referring lawyers per ethics Rule 1.5(e). This ensures that fees are split in a fair and ethical manner. We are always willing to take calls from lawyers and offer our thoughts about cases and legal issues for free.
We can help other lawyers through direct referrals, co-counseling, and serving as trial counsel.
Here are my top ten things to know about co-counseling:
1. We work under the referring lawyer’s fee agreement. No one knows the client like the referring lawyer. She and the client arranged a fee agreement that worked best given the client’s legal issue.
2. Division of fees does not have to be proportional to services rendered. Rule 4-1.5(e) permits lawyers to divide a fee either on the basis of the proportion of services they render or if each lawyer assumes responsibility for the representation as a whole.
Comment 7 tot he rule notes that “Joint responsibility for the representation entails financial and ethical responsibility for the representation as if the lawyers were associated in a partnership.”
3. Our fees are reasonable. Rule 4-1.5(a) requires that lawyers charge fees that are reasonable under the circumstances. The same rule requires that expenses for which the client will be charged must be reasonable. At Burger Law, we keep our fees reasonable and our costs low.
4. We take cases from out-of-state attorneys. The Missouri Bar expressly allows Missouri attorneys to serve as co-counsel and split fees with an attorney not licensed in Missouri. Informal Opinion No. 2018-05.
Like in all co-counsel scenarios, sharing a fee with an out-of-state attorney is allowed when the division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer or if each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation; if the client agrees to the association in writing; and the total fee is reasonable.
5. Transparency and open communication with clients are essential. Enforceable fee sharing agreements require the client to be notified of the agreement in writing. Rule 4-1.5(e); Londoff v. Vuylsteke, 996 S.W.2d 553, 558-59 (Mo. App. E.D. 1999).
While informing the client of how much of the fee each attorney will receive is not required, Rule 4-1.5, Comment 7, doing so is a good way to foster trust and positive relationships with your clients.
6. To be enforceable, fee-splitting agreements must comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Missouri Court of Appeals has held that “an agreement to share attorney fees that does not comply with Rule 4-1.5(e) is unenforceable.” Neilson v. McCloskey, 186 S.W.3d 285, 28 (Mo. App. E.D. 2005). At Burger Law, we have the experience to make a fee-splitting agreements that are fair and enforceable for the attorneys involved.
7. We can take your case to trial. At Burger Law, we understand that you might not need outside assistance until your case is set for trial. Rule 4-1.5(e) specifically contemplates that lawyers may need special help in taking a case to trial. See Rule 4.15(e), Comment 7.
8. We can help with the cost of litigation. Complex personal injury, medical malpractice, and workers’ compensation cases often entail a lot of up-front expenses. At Burger Law, we generally finance cases and pay all expenses.
9. We can help with expert witnesses. Finding the right expert witness can make or break your case. We can help find, depose, and examine the expert that will help maximize the client’s recovery.
10. We are the lawyers other lawyers trust. Attorneys regularly turn to Burger Law to serve as co-counsel for their clients. We present CLEs to help teach other attorneys the ins and outs of civil litigation.
At any given time, a large percentage of our practice is made up of cases involving car wrecks, truck crashes, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and workers’ compensation claims.