Opinion 89-7
(March 1989)

You have asked the Professional Guidance Committee to render an opinion on the following facts: Two individuals, brother and sister, hired your firm to investigate the possibility of litigation against a trust that both the clients as well as their mother are beneficiaries of. A written letter confirming both your retainer arid the work to be done was sent to both the brother and sister. After your work was completed there was a balance owed to your firm. The brother indicated to you by phone that neither he nor his sister intended to pay the bill. Subsequent to this, the mother called your office arid agreed to pay you $1,000 in full settlement of the outstanding bill. You agreed to this and received the check from the mother, but prior to cashing it the brother called and told you that he did not approve of his mother's payment and that he did not authorize you to accept the payment. To date, pending this opinion, you are holding the mother's check, but have not negotiated it. The Committee is of the opinion that you may not accept the money from the mother and should return her check.

Discussion:


Professional Conduct Rule 1.8(f) provides that:

A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless:

(l) the client consents after full disclosure of the circumstances arid consultation;

(2) there is no interference with the lawyer's independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and

(3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by Rule 1.6.

In this present situation, it is clear that the requirement of Rule 1.8f(1) has not been met. Although the mother may be a beneficiary of the trust that the brother and sister hired you to look into, there is no indication that the mother was also your client. Furthermore, it is possible that there may be a potential conflict between the brother and sister and the mother should litigation regarding the trust be contemplated by any of them in the future. In light of the brother's explicit instruction that he does not consent to the mother's compromise and payment of the outstanding bill, you cannot accept the mother s check and must return it to her. Since your representation of the brother and sister has terminated, you may riot have a problem complying with Rule 1.8f(2) at this time. However this in no way abrogates the independent requirement of client consent as found in Rule 1.8(f) (1).

 

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.