87 N.J.L.J. 190
March 26, 1964
In our Opinions 7, 86 N.J.L.J. 405 (1963); and 13, 87 N.J.L.J.
1 (1964), we stated that it was improper for attorneys to permit
others to fix their fees. Inquiry is made as to whether the
regulation of the Veterans Administration limiting fees in
connection with the closing of mortgage loans guaranteed by that
agency is in conflict with our opinions.
Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 12 sets forth guides which a lawyer should apply in determining the amount of the fee to be charged in any matter. Canon 35 provides in part that the professional services of a lawyer should not be controlled or exploited by any lay agency, personal or corporate.
Both the federal and state governments have in numerous instances pre-empted the rights of lawyers to fix their own fees and have established either a schedule of fees which the lawyers must accept or a maximum amount to be charged. As the inquirer properly states, the regulations of the Veterans Administration control the maximum fees to be charged for mortgage loans guaranteed by that governmental agency (see Code of Federal Regulations, par. 36.4312, p. 802).
The controlling of attorneys' fees in this manner has never been deemed improper. For years, in this State and others, attorneys' fees in workmen's compensation cases have been fixed by statute (see N.J.S.A. 34:15-64 and its predecessors since 1913). Neither our former Supreme Court nor Court of Errors and Appeals,
nor our present Supreme Court, has expressed any doubt that the Legislature could prescribe and limit attorneys' fees in such cases. See Comparri v. James Readding, Inc., 121 N.J.L. 591 (Sup. Ct.1939); Alexander v. Cunningham Roofing Co., Inc., 125 N.J.L. 277 (E.& A. 1940); Haberberger v. Myer, 4 N.J. 116 (1950). Similar provisions are found in the compensation laws of other states. The regulations of the Veterans Administration fall into the same category.
The right of state and federal agencies to control fees in these purely statutory matters seems never to have been questioned.
The prior opinions of this Committee were not intended to apply to situations where the attorneys' fees are fixed or limited by federal or state law or regulations promulgated pursuant to statutory authority.