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Upwork's Charges, Legal Fees and the Unlicensed Practice of Law

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
21 of 61

The law is a construct which can be interpreted and applied in many different ways. There are many attorneys who are comfortable working through Upwork. Some are not. Both interpretations are valid.

Community Guru
Mary W Member Since: Nov 10, 2014
22 of 61

I guess it depends on the definition of "fee sharing".  I'm a paralegal who has done okay on Upwork but I am very careful to work only for attorneys.

 

To me, the Upwork fee is a cost of doing business, much like office rent, telephone charges and the like.  But I understand your concerns and have never seen this addressed.  

 

Perhaps some attorneys on here will speak to this.

Community Guru
Reinier B Member Since: Nov 3, 2015
23 of 61

@Mary W wrote:

I guess it depends on the definition of "fee sharing".  I'm a paralegal who has done okay on Upwork but I am very careful to work only for attorneys.

 

To me, the Upwork fee is a cost of doing business, much like office rent, telephone charges and the like.  But I understand your concerns and have never seen this addressed.  

 

Perhaps some attorneys on here will speak to this.


 I can see the OP's problem thanks to his clarification. And you are right Mary, I too would like to see the moderators or failing that, some other attorneys, comment on this even though the issue does not affect me.

Community Guru
John K Member Since: Feb 17, 2015
24 of 61

Rene, I agree Upwork won't likely change its fee structure anytime soon but a fixed upfront fee would be an interesting alternative to the existing percentage fee system so if it's sufficiently high, perhaps management would consider it. 

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Moderator
Vladimir G Moderator Member Since: Oct 31, 2014
25 of 61

Hi Gregory,

 

Note that Upwork has several attorneys from many states that use the site to offer legal services to clients that they locate on the platform. With respect to service fees, you should keep in mind that freelancers collect 100% of the legal fees paid by clients, and then separately make a payment of service fees to Upwork for the use of Upwork and Upwork services.  The purpose of the service fees is to compensate Upwork for the services Upwork provides to you, not to share the fees you receive from your clients.  Services fees are a business expense equally applicable to all users, whether the services are for web development, translation, or legal services.  

 

Of course, attorneys are ultimately responsible for complying with the rules in their state and we cannot advise you on how specific state rules apply to users.  While we hope you use Upwork to find new clients, we understand that it may not meet the needs of all attorneys in all states.

Active Member
Paul J Member Since: Feb 7, 2019
26 of 61

I have confirmed with the Utah and Arizona bars that they would consider UpWork's practice to be unauthorized fee splitting for attorneys. It does not matter that the attorney collects the funds and then pays UpWork - what matters is that UpWork requires a percentage of the fee collected.

Active Member
Gregory L Member Since: Apr 18, 2017
27 of 61

Same goes with Florida.

Active Member
Heather S Member Since: Apr 9, 2019
28 of 61
Hi Gregory, I'm a (fairly new) attorney in California, and I contacted my State Bar Ethics hotline about this issue. In their eyes, it is considered fee splitting. I tried to have Upwork provide some insight on this, but am told that I need to handle my own compliance matters. I wondered what you decided to do regarding work on UW? Are you taking any legal matters on the site, and if so, are you doing anything to get around the fee splitting issue? I like working on Upwork, but I do not want to risk my law license for it if I can't get around the issue. Thanks for any insights you can provide. Regards, Heather
Active Member
Gregory L Member Since: Apr 18, 2017
29 of 61
Good Evening Heather,

Short answer: I decided not to use Upwork.

I’ve received a number of replies from a number of attorneys in different states, and not a single state bar has said the Upwork fee arrangement is permissible.
Active Member
Heather S Member Since: Apr 9, 2019
30 of 61
Thank you so much for your reply. I’ve reached the same conclusion, unfortunately. I really appreciate you responding to this old thread. Let’s hope it helps others in a similar situation.

Heather
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