Rules to Follow When Working With Referral Sources

Attorneys are bound by many different sets of rules regarding how they interact with clients, prospects, and referral sources. To properly represent a client, an attorney may need to refer the client to another attorney or advisor for their specialized expertise, such as a financial professional, tax advisor, or insurance agent.

To ensure that all parties have a mutually beneficial relationship, the following are some American Bar Association model rules that attorneys must adhere to when working with other professionals.

American Bar Association Model Code of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2: Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services

The American Bar Association’s rules of conduct protect attorneys, clients, and referral sources. Lawyers can establish reciprocal referral relationships with other attorneys and nonlawyer professionals as long as those referral relationships are not exclusive. For example, if our estate planning client needs assistance from a financial advisor, we must recommend a few different advisors. In selecting who to refer to the client, we must also ensure that our recommendations do not interfere with our professional judgment and the client knows about the arrangement. This ensures transparency and allows the client to make informed decisions when looking for other professionals. 

As a matter of ethics and integrity, lawyers cannot receive financial incentives or compensation in exchange for referrals. However, referrals can express appreciation through nominal gifts of little monetary value as a gesture of gratitude. This rule prevents conflicts of interest that may arise from financial arrangements between attorneys and other professionals.

American Bar Association Model Code of Professional Conduct Rule 1.6: Consent for Involvement of Non-Clients

Attorney-client privilege protects confidential communications between a lawyer and their client. Rule 1.6 protects this privilege and the client’s privacy. Clients must consent before an attorney can share privileged information with referral sources, other professionals, or the client’s family members. Your clients may want their advisors involved in the estate planning process because they have relevant information to share (e.g., bank account balances, policy information, prior tax filings) and can offer helpful insight. 

We welcome the opportunity to work with you to better serve our mutual clients. To make sure that we fulfill our ethical obligations, we may have the client sign a third-party waiver form that grants us permission to share relevant information with you or to have you be part of the planning session we have with the client.

To help ensure that our clients have a comprehensive estate plan, we sometimes need to assemble a team of trusted professionals who can contribute their expertise to achieve incredible client outcomes. We appreciate working with you and look forward to working with you more in the future.