Attorney Referral Fees in Georgia - A Complete Guide


How to Ethically Share Fees With Other Georgia Attorneys

In Georgia, attorneys may divide fees when they either assume joint responsibility or base the division off of services performed. All fees must be reasonable.

Georgia Rule

The requirements for a referral fee can be found in Rule 1.5(e) of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct. The rule provides:

A division of a fee between lawyers who are not in the same firm may be made only if:

  • a) the division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer or, by written agreement with the client, each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation;
  • b) the client is advised of the share that each lawyer is to receive and does not object to the participation of all the lawyers involved; and
  • c) the total fee is reasonable.

The commentary to the rule defines joint responsibility as including both financial and ethical considerations.

The rule’s language indicates that written agreement is required only when attorneys use joint responsibility as the basis for the division. Even if not required, however, attorneys should consider always informing the client in writing and obtaining client signature. A written document is one of the easiest ways to show that a client consented to the division.

Another advantage to a written document is that it can include each attorney’s scope of responsibilities and the work for which they will be responsible. As the comment to GRPC Rule 1.4, which deals with communication, points out:

“Reasonable communication between the lawyer and the client is necessary for the client effectively to participate in the representation.”

Communicating each attorney’s responsibilities enables the client to know to which attorney they should direct communications and questions. It also minimizes the potential for miscommunication. Again, a written document is neither required nor suggested within the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct but may be to attorney’s benefit.

Reasonable Fees

Any division of fees must be reasonable. GRPC Rule 1.5(a) provides guidance on how to determine when a fee is reasonable. It states:

A lawyer shall not make an agreement for, charge, or collect an unreasonable fee or an unreasonable amount for expenses. The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include the following:

  • 1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
  • 2) the likelihood that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
  • 3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
  • 4) the amount involved and the results obtained;
  • 5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
  • 6) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
  • 7) the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services; and
  • 8) whether the fee is fixed or contingent.

Circumstances determine if a fee is reasonable. Listed factors are not exclusive and do not have to be met for a fee to be considered unreasonable.


Attorneys in Georgia can divide fees when the division is proportional to work completed or all involved attorneys assume joint responsibility. While not required in all divisions of fees, attorneys should consider always using a written agreement as well as obtaining a client signature to encourage easier communication between the parties.

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