Legal Ethics

Lawyers Can’t Share Fees Earned in Texas; No Client Consent

Jan. 2, 2019, 9:52 PM

Two lawyers can’t share a contingency fee for a successful wrongful death suit because Texas ethics rules prevent fee-sharing without written client consent, a court said Dec. 31.

But Linda Dickens’s claims against Jason Webster for tortious interference can go forward, the the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas said.

Dickens wanted a purported oral agreement to share fees, which she said the client approved, enforced under Kansas law because that’s where she practices and the client lives.

But Dickens filed the wrongful death suit in Texas, so it’s “disingenuous” for her to say she isn’t subject to Texas’s ethical rules rules, the opinion said. “Indeed, it is tantamount to an admission of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in Texas,” the court said.

And even if public policy favored enforcement of the agreement, the court can’t “override the express requirements of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct,” it said.

Dickens can pursue her claims that Webster interfered in her original agreement with the client because she established a prima facie case for tortious interference, according to the opinion.

Justices Craig Stoddart wrote the opinion. Justices Bill Whitehill and Jason Boatright joined.

Dickens and Webster represented themselves.

The case is Dickens v. Webster, 2018 BL 483423, Tex. App., 5th Dist., No. 05-17-00423-CV, 12/31/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Bennett in Washington at jbennett@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

To read more articles log in. To learn more about a subscription click here.