Opinion 91-14
(May 1991)

You have requested a formal opinion on the following situation: You wish to represent a client, who after a short period of dating, agreed to give up her profession, home and art studio and move in with a man who promised to provide for all of your client's economic needs for the rest of her life.

After four years of cohabitation, the relationship was terminated and suit has been instituted against the man for breach of oral contract. There is no allegation of a common-law marriage in the suit which is merely an action for breach of contract between two parties who happened to cohabit.

You ask if a contingent fee is such a matter would be permissible in light of Rule 1.5 d(1) which provides that:

A lawyer shall not enter into an arrangement for, collect, charge, or

1.  Any fee in a domestic relations matter, the payment or amount of which is contingent upon the securing of a divorce or upon the amount of alimony or support;

As the basis of this suit is one of contract, as the parties were never legally married, as you do not intend to make any claim based on the existence of a common-law marriage, and as the case will not be tried in the Family Law Division, the Committee is of the opinion that the prohibition of Rule 1.5d (1) does not apply, and that you are free to represent your client on a contingent basis.

   

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.