Updated: Oct. 11, 2018

IOLTA and Client Trust Accounts

The WSBA publication, Managing Client Trust Accounts Booklet, provides guidance on how to manage a trust account and recordkeeping requirements. For help with trust-account reconciliations, fill out the WSBA’s Monthly Reconciliation and Review Report form.

Lawyers should send inquiries regarding Rule 1.15A (Safeguarding Property) and Rule 1.15B (Required Trust Account Records) of the Washington Supreme Court's Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) to Cheryl Heuett, Senior Auditor. 

Limited practice officers (LPOs) should send inquiries regarding Rule 1.12A (Safeguarding Property) and Rule 1.12B (Required Trust Account Records) of the Washington Supreme Court's LPO Rules of Professional Conduct (LPORPC) to Renata Garcia, Innovative Licensing Programs Manager.

Limited license legal technicians (LLLTs) should send inquiries regarding Rule 1.15A (Safeguarding Property) and Rule 1.15B (Required Trust Account Records) of the Washington Supreme Court’s LLLT Rules of Professional Conduct (LLLT RPC) to Renata Garcia, Innovative Licensing Programs Manager.

The Legal Foundation of Washington (LFW) maintains the list of financial institutions authorized to offer IOLTA accounts, available on its website. The LFW website has forms available on its website to take to the bank when opening an IOLTA or individual trust account. Please contact Linda Graham, with LFW, at 206-957-6282 with any questions regarding authorized banks or opening accounts.

Trust Account Overdrafts

Banks report trust account overdrafts and checks presented against insufficient funds (whether or not paid) to the Washington State Bar Association.  Lawyers, LPOs, and LLLTs are also required to notify the WSBA of a trust account overdraft.

For lawyers, if a trust account is overdrawn, or if a check is presented against insufficient funds, a lawyer must report the overdraft and provide a full explanation of the cause of the overdraft to Disciplinary Counsel Craig Bray.  LPOs and LLLTs must report this information to Renata Garcia, Innovative Licensing Programs Manager.  See Washington Supreme Court Rule 15.4 of the Rules for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct (ELC), the Rules for Enforcement of LPO Conduct (ELPOC) or the Rules for Enforcement of LLLT Conduct (ELLLTC) available on the Washington Courts website.

 A trust account overdraft may result in a grievance investigation. See ELC 5.3, ELPOC 5.3, or ELLLTC 5.3.

Random Examinations

Under Rule 15.1(a) of the Washington Supreme Court's Rules for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel is authorized to examine the books and records of any lawyer or law firm selected at random to determine whether the lawyer or law firm is complying with Rule 1.15A of the Washington Supreme Court's Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC), RPC 1.15B, and the other RPC referenced in RPC 1.15A or RPC 1.15B.

Resources

ELC 15.7 (Trust Accounts and the Legal Foundation of Washington): 
WSBA Advisory Opinion 1957 (whether lawyer is required to open multiple accounts to ensure full FDIC coverage) 
WSBA Trust Account Information FAQs
Sophisticated scams abound – Florida Bar News
What you need to know about this new cashier’s check scam – May 12, 2016, NWSidebar article