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GEFFEN vs MOSS

November 24, 1975

FACTS:
Attorney Geffen was designated as a United States magistrate, thus, precluding
him from continuing his private practice of law. Geffen then decided to sell his physical
assets involving his law practice to Moss for $27,500. It includes Geffen’s entire law
library, all furniture and equipment, and all the cases and legal matters subject to the
approval of his respective clients. Also, Geffren expressed his intention to exert his
influence for the continued welfare of the practice and to encourage present and former
clients to utilize the legal services of the law office in the future
$15,000 was paid but the remaining balance in the amount of $12,500 was not
paid; thus’ this case.
ISSUE:
Whether or not the sale of expectation of future patronage of Geffen’s former
clients to encourage them to patronize Moss is valid.
HELD:
No. Rule 3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, prohibits an attorney from
remunerating another for either 'soliciting' or 'obtaining' employment for him. Whether or
not a lay intermediary solicits the business referred, he may not keep the best interests
of the clients paramount when he profits from his referrals. He is likely to refer claimants,
not to the most competent attorney, but to the one who is compensating him.
Even though such agreement is not contrary to public policy, the court ruled in a
similar jurisprudence, Lyon vs Lyon that:
"The nature of a professional partnership for the practice of law, the reputation of
which depends on the skill, training and experience of each individual member, and the
personal and confidential relationship existing between each such member and the client,
places such a partnership in a class apart from other business and professional
partnerships. The legal profession stands in a peculiar relation to the public and the
relationship existing between the members of the profession and those who seek its
services cannot be likened to the relationship of a merchant to his customer. Thus, our
research has brought to light no case in this jurisdiction in which an allowance was made
to a partner for goodwill upon the dissolution of a partnership created for the practice of
law."