Interested in training for your team? Click here to learn more

Personal Injury Ethics: Clarifying the Rules for Referrals, Fee Sharing, and Co-Counsel Agreements

Applicable Authority, Written Agreements, Client Consent, Referral Only Practices, Best Practices and Strategies

This CLE program qualifies for 90 minutes of Ethics Credit.

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE webinar will discuss the ethical rules and requirements of both the referring lawyer and the lawyer to whom a matter is referred in return for a referral fee. The program will also address co-counsel agreements and the rules and prohibitions of sharing legal fees between attorneys and whether fees may ever be paid to non-lawyers, including the effect of some states now permitting non-lawyers to own law firms.


Sometimes, a prospective client is referred to another personal injury attorney without any further involvement of the first lawyer. Other times, the referring lawyer may receive a fee for the referral. For many lawyers, referring matters or receiving referrals is an integral part of their business model.

ABA Model Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.5(e) and its state law variations, as well as other model rules and formal opinions (Formal Opinion 487), address the unique ethical standards that must be met for both referring and receiving attorneys. The consequences of failing to satisfy these requirements can be disastrous: from disciplinary proceedings to fee disputes and the loss of fees to vicarious liability for the misdeeds or negligence of the attorney to whom the case went.

Many lawyers have gotten into trouble for paying referral fees to non-lawyers. Questions arise, however, now that certain states permit non-attorneys to own law firms.

Listen as this premier panel guides counsel through the ethical rules and requirements for referrals and referral fees.



  1. Applicable authority and standards
    1. ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5(e), 7.2(b)(4), 5.4(a)
    2. Formal opinions
    3. Client consent
    4. Defining "joint responsibility"
    5. Rules about non-lawyers
  2. Referral fees, fee sharing, and co-counsel agreements
  3. Making a fee-sharing agreement enforceable
  4. Recurring issues
    1. Non-lawyer referrals
    2. Interstate/nationwide referrals
    3. Exclusive referrals
    4. Referrals before fee-sharing agreement
    5. Referral by attorneys who cannot legally work on the case
      1. Conflicts of interest
      2. Suspended attorneys
      3. Attorney who retires or becomes incapacitated
      4. Foreign lawyers
  5. Creating a referral only practice


The panel will review these and other issues during the presentation:

  • What is the difference between fee-sharing and co-counsel agreements?
  • Are reciprocal referral agreements permissible and if so, how are they structured?
  • What is "joint responsibility"?
  • Does an agreement to pay a referral fee have to come before the actual referral?
  • Can lawyers ever pay referral fees to non-lawyers? To judges?


Johnston, Randy
Randy Johnston

Johnston Tobey Baruch

Mr Johnston is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and handles cases...  |  Read More

Lear, Edward
Edward O. Lear

Century Law Group

Mr. Lear is a 1983 graduate, cum laude, of Dartmouth College and a 1987 graduate of U.C.L.A. School of Law,...  |  Read More

Leizerman, Michael
Michael Jay Leizerman

The Law Firm for Truck Safety

Mr. Leizerman’s entire caseload consists of catastrophic truck crash claims, including a recent settlement of $34...  |  Read More

Access Anytime, Anywhere

Strafford will process CLE credit for one person on each recording. All formats include course handouts.

To find out which recorded format will provide the best CLE option, select your state:

CLE On-Demand Video