It is a familiar adage that lawyers are privileged to be a self-regulating profession. Only lawyers have the power to decide who may enter the legal profession, who should be disciplined for misconduct, and who should be suspended or disbarred. Unlike members of other trades and professions — such as doctors, accountants, architects or hairdressers — lawyers do not have their professional activities regulated by the Legislature and the Department of Licensing. The Supreme Court has the exclusive power to regulate the legal profession, and the bar association serves as an arm of the Supreme Court in carrying out those functions. But with that privilege goes the responsibility of protecting the public.
The Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Board was established by the Washington Supreme Court in 1994 at the request of the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) by the adoption of Rule 15 of the Admission to Practice Rules. Prior to the adoption of that rule, the WSBA had voluntarily maintained a clients' security or indemnity fund since 1960.
Every state in the United States, as well as many other countries including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, maintain such funds. Although common to the legal profession, similar protection funds are unknown in most other professions and callings.
The stated purpose of the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Board is as follows:
"The Fund may be used for the purpose of relieving or mitigating a pecuniary loss sustained by any client by reason of the dishonesty of, or failure to account for money or property entrusted to, any member of the WSBA in connection with the member's practice of law, or while acting as a fiduciary in a matter related to the member's practice of law. The Fund may also be used to relieve or mitigate like loss sustained by persons by reason of similar acts of an individual who was at one time a member of the WSBA but who was, at the time of the act complained of, under a court ordered suspension." Washington State Court Admission to Practice Rule 15.
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