82-F-30 - Fee Division with Client

 

BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE

FORMAL ETHICS OPINION 82-F-30

 

Inquiry is made concerning the propriety of an attorney depositing legal fees generated from representing creditors in collection matters in an interest bearing trust account to be credited quarterly to payment of accrued legal fees in all collection matters with any excess funds from accumulated interest thereon being remitted to the clients.

Disciplinary Rule 3-102 of the Code of Professional Responsibility prohibits an attorney from sharing legal fees with a non-lawyer. Disciplinary Rule 9-102 provides that the attorney is required to preserve the identity of the funds belonging to the client and to promptly deliver what the client is entitled to receive.

Formal Ethics Opinion 81-F-6 of the Ethics Committee of this Board states that it is improper for an attorney to divide his fee with his client. Formal Ethics Opinion 157 of the Ethics Committee of the American Bar Association states that it is improper for an attorney to divide the amount awarded by the court as attorney's fees with his client.

The minimum levels of conduct and mandatory requirements of the Disciplinary Rules stated in the Code of Professional Responsibility regarding the division of attorney's fees, preserving the identity of the client's funds and promptly delivering the client's funds should be strictly construed. It is, therefore, the opinion of this Committee that remitting excess funds accumulated from interest on attorney's fees to clients is improper.

This 18th day of June, 1982.

ETHICS COMMITTEE:

William R. Willis, Chairman
F. Evans Harvill
John R. Rucker, Senator

APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD