Opinion 87-6
(May 1987)

By letter, dated March 13, 1987, you have asked for an opinion from the Professional Guidance Committee as to whether you might share a fee with an individual who has graduated from law school but who has not yet passed the bar examination1.

The Disciplinary Rules with regard to fee sharing provide, in pertinent part, as follows:

A lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a non-lawyer....

DR3-102(A) (emphasis added).

Further, Purdon's Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated defines a lawyer as one who has been admitted to the bar. Specifically, 42 Pa.C.S.A. §2521 provides:

*Persons admitted to the bars* of the courts of this Commonwealth and to practice law pursuant to general rules shall thereby hold the office of attorney of law [emphasis added].

Therefore, when reading DR3-102 in conjunction with Purdon's, it is clear that fee sharing with one who is not admitted to the bar is prohibited.

In addition, the Pennsylvania Bar Admission Rules give further definition to the phrase "admitted to the bar." Pa.B.A.R. 203(b) provides in pertinent part:

(b) Admission to the bar. The general requirement for admission to the bar of this Commonwealth is satisfactory completion of the bar examination... [emphasis added]2.

The Committee therefore believes that one who is not admitted to the bar is not, by definition, a lawyer. Since one who has not passed the bar examination has not been admitted to the bar, it is this Committee's opinion that it is impermissible for a lawyer to share a fee with an individual who has not passed the bar examination.

Notes

1. For the purposes of this opinion, it is assumed that said individual is not a member of any other state bar.

2. This opinion does not contemplate special admission to the bar. See, e.g., Pa.B.A.R. 204, 205 and 42 Pa.C.S.A. §2523.

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.