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Lawyers paying non-lawyer colleagues

When does generosity become forbidden ‘fee sharing’?

The Wisconsin Supreme Court held recently that a law firm could pay a paralegal a percentage of the gross proceeds from cases on which the paralegal worked.  The Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation had argued that the compensation plan violated the prohibition on sharing legal fees with a non-lawyer. (In re Weigel, 817 N.W.2d 835 (Wis. 2012)). The opinion represents the latest chapter in a long‑running debate about how lawyers can compensate their non-lawyer colleagues. This has been a contentious issue, and the decision in the Wisconsin case highlights the continuing controversy.