OPINION 63
February 1953

DIVISION OF FEES—A law firm representing a c1ient who holds property belonging to a person who disappeared several years ago, may not forward this business to a missing persons lay firm and share their contingent fee in the event the person is located.

Canon 31.

Question

A firm of Texas lawyers represents a c1ient who holds property belonging to person who disappeared several years ago. A Chicago concern advertises that it specializes in searching for missing heirs, legatees, owners of property, etc. They further state that such searches are made at their own cost, without expense to forwarders, and that their compensation is fixed by a contingent fee agreement with the person located. They further state in their advertisement "We cooperate with attorneys on an ethical basis."

The Texas law firm desires to know if it would be proper under the Texas Canons of Ethics, to forward this business to the Chicago firm, and to share in their contingent fee in the event the person is located.

Opinion

In the letter forwarding this matter to Texas attorneys it was stated:

"So far as we know ……are not lawyers" and this opinion is based upon the premise that the Chicago concern is not lawyers. The committee is of the opinion that any such sharing of the fee would be in violation of Canon 31, which expressly prohibits a division of fees except with other lawyers, based upon a division of service or responsibility, or with a forwarding attorney. (8-1)