These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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38-Fee Splitting

41-Non-Virginia Lawyers

A lawyer may ethically share fees with another lawyer who is authorized to participate in the matter and share fees, even if that other lawyer practices in a law firm (in jurisdictions like the District of Columbia and the United Kingdom) owned in part by nonlawyers. Model Rule 5.4(a) generally prohibits fee-sharing with a nonlawyer, although it contains an exception "for firm compensation and retirement plans [which] depends on whether the profits being shared are 'tied to particular clients or particular matters.'" (citation omitted); "[A] division of a legal fee by a lawyer or law firm in a Model Rules jurisdiction with a lawyer or law firm in another jurisdiction that permits the sharing of legal fees with nonlawyers does not violate Model Rule 5.4(a) simply because a nonlawyer could ultimately receive some portion of the fee under the applicable law of the other jurisdiction."; Among other things, "there is no reason to believe that the nonlawyer in the [other jurisdiction] might actually influence the independent professional judgment of the lawyer in the Model Rules jurisdiction, who practices in a different firm, in a different jurisdiction."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn