Attorney Referral Fees in Nebraska - A Complete Guide


How to Ethically Share Fees With Other Nebraska Attorneys

Attorneys in Nebraska can divide fees based on work performed or when they assume joint responsibility. Regardless of the basis for the division, attorneys must confirm client agreement in writing.

Nebraska Rule

Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct § 3-501.5(e) provides the requirements for a division of fees. It states:

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

  • (1) the division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer or each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation;
  • (2) the client agrees to the arrangement, including the share each lawyer will receive, and the agreement is confirmed in writing; and
  • (3) the total fee is reasonable.

In contrast to other states that have adopted the ABA Model Rules, attorneys must disclose the share they are to receive to the client and obtain written client agreement in all divisions. The toal fees must be reasonable.

The Rule 1.5(e) Comment includes a definition of joint responsibility, which is both “financial and ethical responsibility for the representation as if the lawyers were associated in a partnership.”

Reasonable Fees

NRPC Rule 1.5(a) lists the factors that may be used in determining whether a fee is reasonable. It provides:

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, if apparent to the client, 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.

For determining reasonableness of a fee, these factors are not exclusive and do not all have to be present in a case. Reasonableness depends on the circumstances of each case.


The commentary to Rule 1.5 adds competency to the requirements for a division of fees. NRPC Rule 1.1 states:

“A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, preparation and judgment reasonably necessary for the representation.”

To provide competent representation, an attorney should either have the necessary skills and knowledge or has the ability to gain the necessary skills and knowledge to represent a client. They should also maintain this level of competency throughout representation.


In Nebraska, attorneys can divide fees if they assume joint responsibility or base the split on services performed. All attorneys must be competent to handle the case.

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