California Referral Agreement - One-Third of the Attorney Fees

In Scolinos v. Kolts (1995) 37 Cal. App. 4th 635, the client was referred by attorney Scolinos to the defendant attorneys, who represented her in a wrongful termination action. The defendants obtained a $ 390,000 settlement for the client and received over $ 90,000 in attorney fees. Scolinos then brought a breach of contract action against the defendants to recover a referral fee of one-third of the attorney fees received by defendants in the underlying case. (Scolinos v. Kolts, supra, 37 Cal. App. 4th at p. 637.) The Court held that noncompliance with former rule 2-108 (the predecessor to rule 2-200) rendered the alleged referral agreement unenforceable on public policy grounds. (37 Cal. App. 4th at pp. 639-640.) The Court reasoned "it would be absurd if an attorney were allowed to enforce an unethical fee agreement through court action, even though the attorney potentially is subject to professional discipline for entering into the agreement." ( Id. at p. 640.)