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.
William R. Willis, Chairman
F. Evans Harvill
John R. Rucker, Senator
APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD