Informal Opinion Number: 2017-01

Adoption Date: 2017

Rules: 4-1.5; 4-1.145; 4-1.15; 4-1.155
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Trust Accounts and Property of Others
IOLTA Accounts
Subject: Expert Witness - Lawyer Serving As; Fees - Generally; Trust Accounts and Safekeeping Property
Summary: expert witness fees; fees to be shared with another lawyer


Reference Note:  Effective January 1, 2019, Rule 4-1.15(c) was repealed and a new 4-1.15(c) was adopted.  Effective January 1, 2019, Comments [5] and [6] to 4-1.15 were repealed, and new Comments [5], [6], and [20] were adopted.  This opinion is based on Rule 4-1.15 in effect prior to that date.

Question 1: Where Attorney serves as an expert witness and receives an advance deposit for fees and expenses, may Attorney place those funds in Attorney’s trust account and bill against the funds for work done as an expert witness?
Answer 1: Attorney may put the funds in Attorney’s trust account, following the procedures in Rules 4-1.145-4-1.155 and Formal Opinion 128 for deposit and disbursement. See also Informal Opinion 20030001.
Question 2: Where Attorney A and Attorney B (who are not in the same firm) agree to share fees pursuant to Rule 4-1.5(e), may Attorney A hold the fees due Attorney B in Attorney A’s trust account before disbursing them to Attorney B?
Answer 2: Rule 4-1.15(a) requires Attorney A to hold in Attorney A’s trust account any fees in Attorney A’s possession in connection with representation which are the property of a client or third person, including another attorney (in this case, Attorney B). If the other attorney with whom fees are being shared pursuant to 4-1.5(e) has an interest in the property, Rule 4-1.15(d) requires Attorney A to promptly notify Attorney B and promptly deliver to Attorney B any funds Attorney B is entitled to receive, except as provided in Rules 4-1.145-4-1.155 or otherwise permitted by law or by agreement with the client.

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

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