Collaboration on Civil Litigation

Marino Finley has extensive experience partnering with other firms on litigation matters in venues throughout the United States.  Having spent many years in large firms we understand that there are occasions where cases—particularly those where clients desire alternative fee arrangements—do not fit with the cost structures and policies of larger firms. It may also be that business issues make it difficult for the firm to take on a matter even for a valued client.

Our firm focuses only on litigation and we prefer fee arrangements that reward success for the client rather than solely the time spent on the matter.  We, therefore, are often a logical referral choice for larger general practice firms for all or a portion of a litigation matter, when they want to assure that the matter will receive high quality attention without risking the client relationship. Additionally, it is ethical and legal in many instances to share resulting fees with the referring firm.

In the District of Columbia, for example, it is generally permissible to share fees with a referring lawyer or firm, so long as certain conditions are met.  Under Rule 1.5 of the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC), a referring lawyer may receive a portion of fees earned so long as:

  • The division of fees is in proportion to the services performed OR “each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation;
  • The client is advised in writing of certain details of the arrangement, including the identities of the lawyers, the division of responsibility and the effect, if any, of the association on the fee to be charged;
  • The client gives informed consent; and
  • The total fee charged is reasonable.

Importantly, “the concept of joint responsibility does not require the referring lawyer to perform any minimum portion of the total legal services rendered.  The referring lawyer may agree that the lawyer to whom the referral is made will perform substantially all of the services to be rendered in connection with the representation, without review by the referring lawyer.”  District of Columbia RPC, Rule 1.5, Comment 12. The concept of joint responsibility is not, however, merely a technicality or incantation. The lawyer who refers the client to another lawyer, or affiliates another lawyer in the representation, remains fully responsible to the client, and is accountable to the client for deficiencies in the discharge of the representation by the lawyer who has been brought into the representation. The drafters of this Rule specifically envisioned, and sought to encourage, referrals to trial specialists to better serve the client and recognized that fee divisions are often used, and are beneficial in contingent fee cases.  Id. 1.5, Comment 9.  Many states have similar rules permitting division of fees with referring lawyers.

We have extensive experience assessing and handling contingent fee matters, as well as experience trying large, complex matters.  If a contingent matter is promising or important for other reasons, we are eager to discuss collaboration on such matters with other firms.

For more information about our collaboration agreements, contact Daniel Marino at