Frequently Asked Questions about the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection
What is the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Board?
The Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Board is established by the Washington State Bar Association and the Washington Supreme Court. Its purpose is to make gifts to persons in compensation in those rare cases where clients suffer a direct financial loss caused by the dishonest conduct of a lawyer in connection with the practice of law.
Who finances the Lawyers' Fund?
No tax dollars are used. All of the active lawyers in Washington state make a contribution to the Fund every year.
Who is eligible for gifts from the Fund?
If you have lost money or property because a Washington lawyer was dishonest or mishandled your money, you can apply for a gift from the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Board.
The Fund is a source of last resort. Before the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Board can approve a gift, you must have tried all other means of getting your money back. This may include getting money from:
1) a bank that honored a forged endorsement;
2) bonds or insurance;
3) negligent partners of the lawyer; or
4) the lawyer, if he or she has assets.
What losses are not eligible for a gift from the Fund?
The Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Board cannot compensate you for losses caused by a lawyer's malpractice, or fee disputes between you and your lawyer. For disputes concerning a lawyer's fee, please consider resolving the matter directly with the lawyer. For a complete listing and detailed information about dispute resolution centers, please go to www.resolutionwa.org. The WSBA's Alternative Dispute Resolution Section website also offers a directory of private, professional individuals and organizations that provide alternative dispute resolution. See www.wsba-adr.org.
The Fund can compensate you only for the amount the lawyer took or mishandled. The Fund cannot compensate you for damages such as lost interest, attorney fees you paid in attempting to recover the lost money, or other consequential or punitive damages.
How do I apply for a gift from the Fund?
You need to do two things: submit an application to the Fund and file a disciplinary grievance with the WSBA (unless the lawyer has already been disbarred or is deceased).
To get a Fund application and grievance form, contact the WSBA by mail, phone, fax, or e-mail at:
Washington State Bar Association 1325 4th Ave., Ste. 600 Seattle, WA 98101-2539800-945-WSBA or 206-443-WSBA Fax: 206-727-8314 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Forms may also be downloaded from the WSBA website.
Complete the forms as directed, and attach copies of relevant documents, including any written fee agreement, receipts and canceled checks that show payment to the lawyer. Return the form and documents to the WSBA.
Do I need a lawyer to apply for a gift from the Fund?
No, you do not need a lawyer to apply for a gift or to file a disciplinary grievance. A lawyer may help you with your application, but cannot charge you for helping you. The only exception to this is if the lawyer's fee is approved by the Fund Trustees, who are the Board of Governors of the Washington State Bar Association.
What happens after I file my application?
First, we must determine if your loss was caused by the lawyer's dishonest conduct. In most cases, a gift cannot be made until the lawyer has been convicted of a crime or found to have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Board and the WSBA Office of Disciplinary Counsel work together in investigating applications to the Fund.
Your Fund application is reviewed by the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Board. There are both lawyers and nonlawyers on the Fund Board. If the Fund Board agrees that a gift should be made from the Fund, the Fund Board may make gifts up to $25,000. Gifts over $25,000 must be approved by the WSBA Board of Governors. Approved gifts will be paid up to $5,000 upon final approval; any remaining balance on the approved gift will not be disbursed until fiscal year end and may be subject to proration. The maximum gift is $75,000
Is there a time limit for filing an application?
Generally, you must apply for a gift within three years after you discover the loss.
What happens if I receive a gift from the Fund and later get my money back from another source?
Before a gift is made, you must agree to repay the Fund if you later receive the lost money from another source.
How do I contact the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Board of the Washington State Bar Association?
You can contact the WSBA by mail, phone, fax, e-mail, or through our website:
Washington State Bar Association 1325 4th Ave., Ste. 600 Seattle, WA 98101-2539 800-945-WSBA (9722) or 206-443-WSBA (9722) Fax: 206-727-8314 Email: email@example.com or www.wsba.org
Rule establishing the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection
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