Attorney Referral Fees in Oklahoma - A Complete Guide


How to Ethically Share Fees With Other Oklahoma Attorneys

Oklahoma follows the ABA Model Rules and attorneys may divide fees with another attorney when they either base the division on work performed or assume joint responsibility. A client must agree to the division in writing.

Oklahoma Rule

Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.5(e) covers when and how an attorney may divide fees with another attorney. 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 and the agreement is confirmed in writing;
  3. the total fee is reasonable.

The comment mentions that one reason for Rule 1.5(e) is in cases when neither attorney alone could represent the client as well as the attorneys could together.

Reasonable Fees

Like other fees, any division of fees between attorneys should be reasonable. ORPC Rule 1.5(a) defines what constitutes a reasonable fee. 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, 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.

Reasonableness is a case-by-case determination. The listed factors are not exclusive and all or none may be relevant when determining whether a fee is reasonable.


Before referring a client to another attorney, an attorney should have reason to believe the second attorney is competent to handle the representation. The Rule 1.5 Comment includes this requirement for all fee divisions. ORPC Rule 1.1 defines competency:

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

The comment further defines competency for an attorney. At the start of representation, an attorney either should already possess the skills and knowledge needed or should have the ability to gain those skills and knowledge throughout representation. An attorney also needs to maintain or increase that level of competency during representation.


Attorneys may refer a client to another attorney whom they believe is competent to handle the representation. The referring attorney will either take a fee that is either proportional to services performed or with the assumption of joint responsibility.

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