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Procedural Posture

Procedural Posture

Plaintiff lawyer appealed a decision from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), which entered summary judgment in favor of defendant lawyers, in plaintiff’s breach of contract action to recover a referral fee in the amount of one-third of the attorney fees that defendants received in a case referred to them by plaintiff.

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Plaintiff lawyer alleged that he entered into a referral arrangement with defendant lawyers. He further alleged that defendants were to pay him a referral fee in the amount of one-third of the legal fees they received. Under this agreement, plaintiff referred a wrongful termination case to defendants. Subsequently, defendants received over $ 90,000 in fees. Plaintiff filed a complaint that asserted a breach of contract action against defendants for failure to pay his referral fee. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, based on their argument that a contract for a referral fee without disclosure and written consent of the client was void. In opposition to defendants’ summary judgment motion, plaintiff argued for the first time that defendants orally promised to inform the client and secure her written consent. The trial court granted summary judgment for defendants. On appeal, the court affirmed the summary judgment because noncompliance with Cal. Bar Rules, Prof. Conduct R. 2-108 rendered the agreement unenforceable, and plaintiff’s complaint did not include the essential agreement regarding defendants’ promise to ensure compliance.


The court affirmed the summary judgment in defendant lawyers’ favor because plaintiff lawyer’s referral contract was unenforceable. The court found that the contract was void because it violated the rules of professional conduct where the agreement was not disclosed to the client. Additionally, plaintiff’s assertion that defendants assured him of compliance appeared for the first time in opposition to summary judgment.