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Posted in Newsletter on December 22, 2022   |  by Gary Burger

Lawyer to Lawyer: Attorney Referrals

An attorney referral service is the act of attorneys referring business to other lawyers within their specific practice area. When this happens, the referring attorney will likely receive a lawyer referral fee from the other attorney. Below are some of the different ways that Burger Law practices attorney referral with lawyers in St. Louis and throughout the Midwest:

  • Direct Referral: We gladly collaborate with other attorneys who refer clients for representation in accordance with Ethics Rule 1.5(e).
  • Co-Counsel: We specialize in complex personal injury litigation and are happy to collaborate with you to the degree that you see necessary. We will take on an advisory role, work with you on equal terms, or take the lead until the client receives full and fair compensation.
  • Trial Counsel: We understand that you might not need outside assistance until your case is set for trial. We will use our knowledge, experienced staff, and resources to help prepare for a successful trial.

Here are ten things to know about co-counseling with Burger Law:

  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 to the 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 do 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 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.

Our attorneys invite you to leverage our experience, resources, and network to get the best results for your clients. The client always remains yours, and our attorneys promise to be transparent – you can see the file or know what's going on at any time. If you are interested in connecting, call me at (314) 500-HURT, contact us online or email me at gary@burgerlaw.com. Here's more information on our Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals.

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