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End-of-life notice: American Legal Ethics Library

As of March 1, 2013, the Legal Information Institute is no longer maintaining the information in the American Legal Ethics Library. It is no longer possible for us to maintain it at a level of completeness and accuracy given its staffing needs. It is very possible that we will revive it at a future time. At this point, it is in need of a complete technological renovation and reworking of the "correspondent firm" model which successfully sustained it for many years.

Many people have contributed time and effort to the project over the years, and we would like to thank them. In particular, Roger Cramton and Peter Martin not only conceived ALEL but gave much of their own labor to it. We are also grateful to Brad Wendel for his editorial contributions, to Brian Toohey and all at Jones Day for their efforts, and to all of our correspondents and contributors. Thank you.

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Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.

Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct

Comment - 5.4

[1] The provisions of this rule express traditional limitations on sharing fees. These limitations are to protect the lawyer’s professional independence of judgment. Where someone other than the client pays the lawyer’s fee or salary, or recommends employment of the lawyer, that arrangement does not modify the lawyer’s obligation to the client. As stated in division (c), such arrangements should not interfere with the lawyer’s professional judgment.

[2] This rule also expresses traditional limitations on permitting a third party to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in rendering legal services to another. See also Rule 1.8(f) (lawyer may accept compensation from a third party as long as there is no interference with the lawyer’s independent professional judgment and the client gives informed consent).

Comparison to former Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility

Rule 5.4 addresses the same subject addressed by DR 3-102(A), which prohibits dividing fees with nonlawyers, DR 3-103 and DR 5-107(C), which prohibit forming a partnership or practicing in a professional corporation with nonlawyers, and DR 5-107(B), which prohibits direction or regulation of a lawyer’s professional judgment by any person who recommends, employs, or pays the lawyer to render legal services to another.

Rule 5.4 is not intended to change any of the provisions in the Ohio Code. Slight modifications in language between Ohio Code provisions and the Model Rule are intended to promote clarity of meaning. Rule 5.4(a) is substantially the same as DR 3-102(A). Rule 5.4(b) is identical to DR 3-103. Rule 5.4(c) is substantially the same as DR 5-107(B). Rule 5.4(d) is substantially the same as DR 5-107(C).

Comparison to ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct

Rule 5.4(a) contains two changes from the Model Rule. Division (a)(4) is modified to retain the ability of a lawyer to share court-awarded legal fees with a nonprofit organization that employed or retained the lawyer in the matter.

Division (a)(5) is added to limit the ability of a lawyer to share legal fees with a nonprofit organization that recommended employment of the lawyer. Unlike Model Rule 5.4, the Ohio version of the rule limits the ability of a lawyer to share legal fees under these circumstances to nonprofit organizations that comply with provisions of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio that regulate lawyer referral and information services. See Gov. Bar R. XVI.