MONTH-IN-BRIEF (Feb 2018)
Assigning Claims Against Clients for Fees Is Invalid
By Keith R. Fisher, National Center for State Courts
A Florida federal court recently ruled that a lawyer’s assigning a claim against a client for fees is void as against public policy because of the centrality of the ethical interest in preserving client confidentiality. A parallel rationale underlies a 2007 Florida Supreme Court decision invalidating clients assigning malpractice claims against their lawyers. Both decisions are consistent with the analysis in a 2000 D.C. Ethics Opinion. The key distinction is that while it is permissible to use a collection agency to recover fees owed, outright assignment of the claim abdicates control over the collection process and would allow collection efforts that are incompatible with a lawyer’s ethical requirements.