In some situations, legally pending cases are transferred over to different attorneys (and by extension, firms). In other cases, the expertise and knowledge of another attorney from a different firm (or an independent practitioner) may also be required. When such situations arise, the client will need to sign an attorney referral agreement, which grants both their current attorney, as well as the new attorney, the legal right to work on their case. This is particularly important to do when enlisting an external attorney, as it revokes things like attorney-client privilege and extends it to include the new attorney. As a result, it is a formality that should be completed immediately after hiring or transferring the case to a new attorney.
What Exactly Does an Attorney Referral Agreement do?
An attorney referral agreement is essentially an agreement between the client(s) and their attorney(s). When they require the assistance of a third-party attorney, who is an independent practitioner or a member of another firm, an attorney referral agreement is a legal mechanism that allows them to enlist a said attorney. Typically, the need for such an agreement arises in the following cases;
- An attorney or firm, who currently represents the client, suggests the need for external expertise in order to progress with the client’s legal needs.
- The client, when dissatisfied with the work of their current attorney(s), wishes to move to another firm or work with another attorney.
- When an attorney or firm believes that there is another attorney or firm that would be best suited to deal with the client’s legal needs.
- When an attorney or firm, for their own interests and benefits, decide that they don’t want to proceed with a particular client, even though they have already commenced working on the case/client’s legal needs.
In any of these situations, either party, i.e., the client or their attorney may request an attorney referral agreement to give the third party attorney or firm the legal right to take over the case.
How do Attorney Fees Work After a Referral Agreement?
As we mentioned before, it is a legal mechanism through which both attorneys and clients can either partially or completely transfer a case to another attorney (s) and/or firm(s). When this happens, the new attorneys are entitled to payment, but the actual figure itself largely depends on two things –
a) How much work the previous attorney/firm completed and
b) The client agrees to the amount to be paid to both parties.
Typically, most scenarios involve both attorneys/firms that are subject to the agreement sharing the amount in some agreed-upon ratio. On the client’s end, fees almost never exceed the original amount they agreed to with the first attorney, although extenuating circumstances and new information regarding their case coming to light are exceptions. The referral fee is paid at the end of the contract, i.e., the end of the term of the contract or the conclusion of the services offered by the attorney(s)/firm(s). As a result, any fees that are due in-between, such as case-related expenses and retainers, if applicable, are all pushed towards the end of the contract. Typically, most attorneys that take over cases from others charge 1/3rd of the total fee owed to the original attorney.
This, however, is by no means a fixed number – Many of them charge more in the case that the previous attorney has done little to no work or has done work commensurate with a much lower amount. Again, all of the particulars will have to be agreed upon by the client, as well as the attorney(s)/firm(s) involved, and so, the numbers truly come down to negotiation more than anything. If both attorneys/firms agree that they do equal amounts of work, they are entitled to a 50-50 split. This will include any kind of payment agreed upon in the original contract and so will include any fees due to the attorneys, as well as a portion of any settlement or damages the client receives.
Attorney Referral Agreement Template
An attorney referral agreement is a very simple document to draft and doesn’t contain much legal jargon at all. Apart from mentioning each of the attorney(s) and firm(s) by name, the client’s name and a signature will also be required. Then, the terms and conditions of the attorney referral agreement will have to be laid out – Here, there are a number of clauses and stipulations that one of the parties may want to include.
Usually, clauses like exclusivity clauses, right to terminate clauses, non-disclosure agreements, and processes in case of a breach are outlined in this section. Once that’s done, all the parties will have to sign and date the agreement to make it a legally binding document. To make things easier for you, we’ve also created and drafted a template that can be used as-is or may be modified to best suit your needs.
(Keep in mind that the body of the template is preceded by a signatory section. This includes the names of all parties involved, such as the attorneys/firms in question and the client themselves. The body of the contract is as follows;)
In the interest of the client, the attorney agrees to transfer all legal proceedings, information, power and the handling of the client’s legal needs as they pertain to _ (Here, add specifics. If there is a case, case number, etc. If not, add the timeframe within which the client will need the services of the attorney.)
The client’s current attorney agrees to pay the referred attorney in the following way(s);
(Here, all payment-related details will be listed, such as the amount due, percentages, if applicable, schedule, manner of payment, and method of payment.)
IV. ADDITIONAL CLAUSES
Here, any of the parties subject to the contract may insert additional clauses to protect/enhance their interests. Typically, this includes things like exclusivity, non-disclosure, confidentiality, and the right to terminate clauses. This will give both parties an added layer of legal protection, as well as let them feel more secure. Such clauses typically prevent disclosure of particulars or working for other clients during the contractual term, and so, will have to be decided upon depending on the agreement and situation. We strongly recommend having legal counsel go over this section once the contract has been drafted.
VI. THE AGREEMENT IN ITS ENTIRETY
The parties hereby agree that this agreement supersedes any and all previously existing agreements between the parties, and serves to represent the entirety of the agreement between said parties.
Client Name DATE
Client Signature DATE
Current Attorney Name DATE
Current Attorney Signature DATE
Referring Attorney Name DATE
Referring Attorney Signature DATE
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