Ethics Committee Formal Opinion #1996-97/5
Conflict of Interest: Representing a Client Through Business Arrangement with For-profit Lay Corporation
February 25, 1997
An attorney may ethically enter into a business arrangement with a corporation whereby for a set fee, the attorney reviews denials of social security claims to decide whether the client should appeal a denial of the client’s social security claim, provided that: (1) neither the corporation (or insurance companies with which the corporation solicits such business) shall interfere or influence the attorney’s independent judgment; (2) the focus of the review will be on what is best for the client (and not the insurance company); (3) all information received during the attorney’s representation shall remain confidential; and (4) the attorney shall abide and be bound by the decisions of the client. Rule 5.4(c); Rule 1.7(b); Rule 5.4(c); Rule 1.2(a).
The attorney having received a fee from a third party to review a denial of social security benefit on behalf of a client, may not share with that third party any attorney’s fees awarded in the successful representation in an appeal on behalf of that client. Rule 5.4(a); Rule 7.2(c).
- Do any rules of the New Hampshire Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit such a business arrangement?
- Although not part of the proposed business arrangement at present, could the corporation receive reimbursement of the set fee it pays the attorney for preparing the appeal from the EAJA fees the attorney will seek?