Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Lawyer Demands Fee for Making Referral

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have gone to the same lawyer for more than 10 years. Today, I find myself in a predicament where I need a specialist to help me with a problem that is beyond my lawyer’s expertise, but I feel like it’s almost like breaking up with a hairdresser. I asked my lawyer for a referral for a specialist, and he got offended and told me he could handle it. When I pressed him on the importance of finding an expert, he said he would find someone but charge me a fee for the referral. I don’t understand that. I have sent people to him over the years and never asked for a cut. Why should I give him a cut of something he cannot handle? -- Lawyer Trouble

DEAR LAWYER TROUBLE: It is true that a long-term relationship with an attorney can feel personal and intimate and, therefore, difficult to leave, even if only for a particular project. You should say as much to your attorney. Let him know how hard it was for you to come to the realization that you needed someone else for the legal challenge that you are facing.

In terms of paying a fee, that depends on how much work your lawyer did to identify this specialist for you. While some attorneys make referrals gratis, others do charge a fee if they vet the new lawyer, introduce him or her and oversee at least the early process to ensure that you are properly cared for. Evaluate what your attorney is doing for you before you complain. If you think he deserves something, negotiate with him on that amount. If not, find another attorney who is completely independent of your guy.