Co-Counsel Agreements

FEE SHARING AND CO-COUNSEL AGREEMENTS

The ethical rules of most states, including Georgia and South Carolina, allow for lawyers in different firms to share contingent fees in a personal injury case as long as each lawyer is jointly responsible for the matter, and the client agrees to the division of fees.

Georgia Ethical Rule 1.5 states:

(e) A division of a fee between lawyers who are not in the same firm may be made only if:

1. the division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer or, by written agreement with the client, each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation;

2. the client is advised of the share that each lawyer is to receive and does not object to the participation of all the lawyers involved; and

3. the total fee is reasonable.

South Carolina Ethical Rule 1.5 states:

(e) A division of a fee between lawyers who are not in the same firm may be made only if:

1. the division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer or each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation;

2. the client agrees to the arrangement, including the share each lawyer will receive, and the agreement is confirmed in writing; and

3. the total fee is reasonable.

Based on these ethical rules, not only can a lawyer who practices primarily personal injury law share in fees generated from a personal injury claim as co-counsel with another lawyer in a different firm, but also lawyers who practice in the area of family law, criminal law, real estate or any other specialty may jointly represent a personal injury claimant and share in the contingency fees generated by the matter. The percentage of the fee payable to co-counsel does not have to be in proportion to the amount of work performed in litigating the case. In other words, a lawyer can receive 30%, 40% or even 50% of the fee in a case without having his name on the pleadings or performing any of the “litigation” work. Normally, the only role our co-counsel has in the case is maintaining the relationship with the client. However, we recognize the importance of this role and understand that the division of fees between co-counsel should reflect the value of this service.

At Fried Rogers Goldberg, 95% of our cases come from other lawyers who have associated us in as co-counsel because of our expertise handling catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases primarily in the area of trucking and commercial vehicle accidents. Many of these lawyers do not have experience with these types of cases but retain a significant amount of the contingency fee because of their role in maintaining the relationship with the client. We act as lead counsel in the case and advance all costs and expenses but make sure our co-counsel is always kept in the loop. We welcome the opportunity to join as co-counsel in a case as early as possible in the process. Many times, we are called about the case before the potential client has even executed a fee agreement contract, and we meet with the potential client to assist in the interview process and the signing up of the case. In these situations, our firm and our co-counsel are both listed as counsel of record on the fee agreement contract which designates the division of fees between co-counsel.

In situations where the client has already executed a fee agreement contract with co-counsel and our firm is brought in to assist in the matter, the division of fees is determined at the beginning of the case based on the type and complexity of the case and the difficulty of prevailing at trial and memorialized in a fee sharing arrangement. We have attached a standard fee sharing arrangement that we use in our cases. While we prefer to be associated into a case before a lawsuit is filed so that we can control the litigation in preparation for trial, we are sometimes brought into cases right before trial to act as lead counsel because of our extensive courtroom experience in presenting cases to a jury. We are always open to alternative fee arrangements in these situations. If you have questions about fee sharing or co-counsel arrangements, e-mail Michael@frg-law.com.

TESTIMONIALS FROM CO-COUNSEL

“They were co-counsel on a tough liability case where the client was paralyzed in the accident. After taking numerous depositions and preparing the case for trial, the matter was resolved, and I received a seven-figure fee as my part of the co-counsel arrangement. That was an amazing result.”-S. Bader, workers comp attorney

“A police officer friend of mine was injured in an accident with a DUI driver. The driver had the minimum limits of coverage. FRG helped me get the case signed up, and they pursued a claim against the bar that had served alcohol to the driver. After extensive litigation, the case settled against the bar for the policy limits of coverage. There is no way I could have gotten that result on my own.” –M. LaScala, criminal defense attorney

“They were my co-counsel in one of the most horrible tragedies where a family heading to the beach lost a father and a child in a trucking accident. After turning down numerous offers from the insurance company, the case finally settled for $14.5 million dollars, one of the largest death case settlements in Horry County. Since then, I have brought them in on any serious injury case that comes into my firm.”R. Lee, South Carolina attorney

“I have worked with them on a number of cases involving clients with orthopedic injuries. They always seem to get these surgical cases resolved with the insurance company for several times the normal rate. For me, it just makes economic sense to work with them on serious injury cases.”-R. Reeves, North Carolina attorney

“A business client of mine was injured in a trucking accident. We worked together with FRG to represent him and ultimately the case settled for a significant amount. I am always keeping my eyes open for a case to bring them in as co-counsel.”-A. Webb, business litigator