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                                         101 N.J.L.J. 341
                                        April 13, 1978


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Lawyer Referral Service
Requiring Forwarding Fee

    A bar association has established a lawyer referral service. The by-laws provide that if a panel member receives a net fee above $250, "the referral service is entitled to a forwarding fee of one-third (33 1/3%) over that amount." A question has arisen as to whether it is proper for a member to pay this fee.
    Lawyer referral services fill a distinct need in providing legal assistance for many people. The Disciplinary Rules have recognized this and accordingly exceptions for such organizations
have been carved out of the prohibition involving recommendation of professional employment.
    DR 2 deals with publicity and advertising in general. DR 2-103 deals specifically with recommendation of professional employment and subsection D(3) provides as an exception to the general prohibitions enunciated by the rule that a lawyer may be recommended, employed, paid by or cooperate with "[a] lawyer referral service operated, sponsored or approved by a bar association." DR 2-103(C)(l) further provides that any attorney "may request referrals from a lawyer referral service operated, sponsored or approved by a bar association and may pay its fees incident thereto."

    In our opinion the payment of a portion of a fee in excess of $250 to the referral service is proper. We consider such a fee to represent a contribution to the administrative expenses of the bar association referral services which is permitted under DR 2-103(1), rather than a division of fees with a non-lawyer which is prohibited under DR 3-102.

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