A Manhattan judge has ruled that an arrangement by which a personal injury lawyer paid a non-lawyer a 15 percent “facility fee” to run his office constituted an illegal and unenforceable fee-splitting arrangement.

Non-lawyer Steven Fruman had sued attorney Andre Strishak in 2003 for failing to pay $1.5 million for services performed over the previous five years. Though it was never put in writing, Fruman claimed Strishak had agreed to pay him 15 percent of the office expenses, including rent and staff salaries. Strishak countered that the plaintiff’s expense claims were “subterfuge” and he was actually seeking a portion of the lawyer’s attorney fees from settled personal injury cases.

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