On Nov. 30, 2005, the Supreme Judicial Court decided the case of Saggese v. Kelley, SJC-09484, which involved a dispute between lawyers over a referral fee. In the case, the court set a new ethical standard which is of critical importance to all practitioners who share fees on case referrals.
In short, the client must acknowledge, in writing, awareness of the fee sharing arrangement. The court has placed the primary burden for obtaining this acknowledgement on the referring lawyer, but the lawyer to whom the case is referred is expected to have the written acknowledgement as well.
In order to avoid possible disciplinary sanction, all attorneys should adopt the practice of obtaining written client acknowledgment of fee sharing arrangements. All counsel should receive and maintain copies of the acknowledgment.