Tomar, Seliger, Simonoff, Adourian & O'Brien, P.C. v. Snyder
In Tomar, Seliger, Simonoff, Adourian & O'Brien, P.C. v. Snyder, 601 A.2d 1056 (Del. Super. Ct.), appeal refused, 571 A.2d 788 (Del. 1990), the Court examined an agreement reached between an attorney and law firm, while the attorney was still a partner with the firm.
The agreement provided that the firm would transfer certain contingent fee cases to the attorney upon his leaving the firm and that he would pay the firm one third of all fees he received in connection with the cases.
The Court held that the agreement did not violate the Delaware Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct concerning fee splitting and was valid and enforceable. Id. at 1059.
The Court rejected the departing attorney's arguments that the agreement violated the ethical rule that fees must be divided in proportion to services rendered in the case and that the client had to be informed of the fee agreement.
The Court in Tomar noted that the contingent fee cases the departing attorney continued to handle had originated with the firm while the attorney was either an associate or a partner, and there was no "brokering of legal services" such as Rule 1.5(e) was designed to prevent. Id.
The Court reasoned:
By its own terms, Rule 1.5(e) does not apply to lawyers who are in the same firm. It has no application to this case as there is obviously no issue with regard to brokering of legal services . . . .
It is not uncommon for a law firm and a departing attorney to divide the fees resulting from contingent fee cases which the attorney has been handling and will continue to handle after he leaves. . . .
Furthermore . . . the clients did not have to be informed of the fee agreement because they were not affected by it in any way. . . . This fee agreement was simply a part of the overall process of the lawyer's separation from the firm. Id.