The Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection Ohio was established in 1985 to provide assistance to clients that have been financially harmed by the dishonest conduct of a licensed Ohio attorney. While most lawyers observe high standards of integrity when entrusted with clients’ money and property, the dishonest acts of a few can affect the public’s image of and confidence in all legal professionals. The Fund’s goal is to restore public confidence in the legal profession by reimbursing clients for losses sustained as a result of the dishonest conduct of their attorney. The fund is primarily supported by attorney registration fees.
Since its inception, the fund has allocated more than $20 million for 2,830 former legal clients.
What are the Types of Losses Covered?
The Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection reimburses losses. “Dishonest conduct” includes theft, misappropriation, or embezzlement of client funds or property. Dishonest conduct does not include negligence or malpractice by an attorney. Therefore, losses resulting from an attorney’s malpractice or negligence cannot be reimbursed through the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection.
Who Can Apply for Reimbursement?
Almost any legal client who believes he or she has lost money or property due to theft, embezzlement or misappropriation by their attorney may file an application for reimbursement with the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection. An attorney/client relationship, or a fiduciary relationship, must exist between the client/applicant and the attorney. However, a guardian or other legal representative of a claimant may pursue a claim on behalf of the client. Except where special or unusual circumstances exist, the following are not eligible for reimbursement from the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection: the attorney’s spouse, children, parents, grandparents or siblings; business partners, employers or employees of the attorney; or a business controlled by the attorney.
Who Decides Whether a Client/Applicant Qualifies for Reimbursement?
The Board of Commissioners of the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection determines which applicants are eligible for reimbursement. The Board of Commissioners is composed of seven individuals who are appointed by the Supreme Court of Ohio. At least one of the seven commissioners must be a non-lawyer. They serve three-year terms, and also the Board meets four times each year.
Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection Ohio Releases Fiscal Year Report
According to a report released by the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection, one hundred and fifty clients who sustained financial losses resulting from the dishonest conduct of their Ohio attorney were reimbursed with more than $782,000 in the last fiscal year of 2016.
The claims eligible for reimbursement resulted from the dishonest conduct of 48 attorneys. Of the claims, 125 were for fees that are unearned, 19 were for thefts by fiduciaries, and 4 involved theft-of-settlement proceeds.
- 97 claimants received 100 percent reimbursement.
- 40 claims were ruled ineligible.
- One claimant received the maximum ($75,000) award.
Claims for reimbursement from the fund shall be written and verified. The fund shall provide an official claim form which shall require the following information: the name and address of the claimant; the name and last-known address of the attorney who is alleged to have committed a dishonest act; the terms of the attorney’s professional engagement for the claimant; the amount of the loss incurred; the date of the loss or the period of time when the loss occurred; the place and manner at which loss occurred; the date and manner where the claimant discovered the loss; a description of what steps the claimant has taken to recover the loss from the attorney or any other source; and whether there are other sources, such as insurance, fidelity bonds, or surety agreements to reimburse the claimant’s loss. Unless the attorney accused of dishonest conduct is deceased, a claimant could be required to file both disciplinary and criminal complaints against the attorney and provide copies of such complaints within 30 days of the date of the Fund’s letter acknowledging receipt of an application for reimbursement. The trustees may require a claimant to submit additional information that might be necessary to determine a claim.
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