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Abstract 96/97-15

Summary of Facts Provided

An attorney performs contract work for various law firms and, at the same time, maintains a solo practice. The attorney is compensated for the contract work on an hourly basis by the various law firms. The attorney's participation is reflected in the law firms' billing statements to their clients, and the attorney is supervised by attorneys in the firms contracting out the work.

Issues and Conclusions

Does Colorado Rule 1.5 (d) require written disclosure to the law firms' clients and consent by those clients to the arrangement between the law firms and the contract attorney?

No. Neither written disclosure nor client consent is required where payment of the hourly rate to the contract attorney is not contingent upon the clients' payment of the law firms' fees, particularly given that the clients are generally aware of the contract attorney's participation and the attorney's work is supervised by attorneys in the firms contracting out the work. See, In re Marriage of Ziemann, 574 N.E.2d 767, 770 (Ill. App. 1991); ABA Formal Opinion No. 88-356 (1988).

If the arrangement is akin to a contingent fee arrangement, and the compensation of the attorney performing the contract work is dependent upon the clients' payment of the fee, then the arrangement falls within Colorado Rule 1.5 (d), which requires written disclosure and consent. However, where the compensation of the attorney performing contract work is not contingent upon the collection of the fee, then Colorado Rule 1.5 (d) is not applicable. See, e.g., Formal Opinion No. 1994-138, California State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct, 1994 WL 721969.

This analysis does not express an opinion on the related issues which an attorney performing contract work must consider, such as conflicts of interest, confidentiality of information, and arrangements with placement agencies. This analysis also does not address the ethical considerations which are involved if the attorney is office sharing with one of the law firms for which he or she is performing contract work. See, CBA Ethics Committee Formal Opinion 89 (20 Colo. Law. 2493, Dec. 1991).