The Florida Bar
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RULE 5-1.2 TRUST ACCOUNTING RECORDS AND PROCEDURES

5 RULES REGULATING TRUST ACCOUNTS
5-1 GENERALLY

RULE 5-1.2 TRUST ACCOUNTING RECORDS AND PROCEDURES

(a) Applicability. The provisions of these rules apply to all trust funds received or disbursed by members of The Florida Bar in the course of their professional practice of law as members of The Florida Bar except special trust funds received or disbursed by a lawyer as guardian, personal representative, receiver, or in a similar capacity such as trustee under a specific trust document where the trust funds are maintained in a segregated special trust account and not the general trust account and wherein this special trust position has been created, approved, or sanctioned by law or an order of a court that has authority or duty to issue orders pertaining to maintenance of such special trust account. These rules apply to matters in which a choice of laws analysis indicates that such matters are governed by the laws of Florida.

As set forth in this rule, “lawyer” denotes a person who is a member of The Florida Bar or otherwise authorized to practice in any court of the state of Florida. “Law firm” denotes a lawyer or lawyers in a private firm who handle client trust funds.

(b) Minimum Trust Accounting Records. Records may be maintained in their original format or stored in digital media as long as the copies include all data contained in the original documents and may be produced when required. The following are the minimum trust accounting records that must be maintained:


    (1) a separate bank or savings and loan association account or accounts in the name of the lawyer or law firm and clearly labeled and designated as a "trust account";

    (2) original or clearly legible copies of deposit slips if the copies include all data on the originals and, in the case of currency or coin, an additional cash receipts book, clearly identifying the date and source of all trust funds received and the client or matter for which the funds were received;

    (3) original canceled checks or clearly legible copies of original canceled checks for all funds disbursed from the trust account, all of which must:


      (A) be numbered consecutively;

      (B) include all endorsements and all other data and tracking information; and

      (C) clearly identify the client or case by number or name in the memo area of the check;


    (4) other documentary support for all disbursements and transfers from the trust account including records of all electronic transfers from client trust accounts, including:

      (A) the name of the person authorizing the transfer;

      (B) the name of the recipient;

      (C) confirmation from the banking institution confirming the number of the trust account from which money is withdrawn; and

      (D) the date and time the transfer was completed;


    (5) original or clearly legible digital copies of all records regarding all wire transfers into or out of the trust account, which at a minimum must include the receiving and sending financial institutions’ ABA routing numbers and names, and the receiving and sending account holder’s name, address and account number. If the receiving financial institution processes through a correspondent or intermediary bank, then the records must include the ABA routing number and name for the intermediary bank. The wire transfer information must also include the name of the client or matter for which the funds were transferred or received, and the purpose of the wire transfer, (e.g., “payment on invoice 1234” or “John Doe closing”).

    (6) a separate cash receipts and disbursements journal, including columns for receipts, disbursements, transfers, and the account balance, and containing at least:


      (A) the identification of the client or matter for which the funds were received, disbursed, or transferred;

      (B) the date on which all trust funds were received, disbursed, or transferred;

      (C) the check number for all disbursements; and

      (D) the reason for which all trust funds were received, disbursed, or transferred;


    (7) a separate file or ledger with an individual card or page for each client or matter, showing all individual receipts, disbursements, or transfers and any unexpended balance, and containing:

      (A) the identification of the client or matter for which trust funds were received, disbursed, or transferred;

      (B) the date on which all trust funds were received, disbursed, or transferred;

      (C) the check number for all disbursements; and

      (D) the reason for which all trust funds were received, disbursed, or transferred; and


    (8) all bank or savings and loan association statements for all trust accounts.

(c) Responsibility of Lawyers for Firm Trust Accounts and Reporting.

    (1) Every law firm with more than 1 lawyer must have a written plan in place for supervision and compliance with this rule for each of the firm’s trust account(s), which plan must be disseminated to each lawyer in the firm. The written plan must include the name(s) of the lawyer(s) who sign trust account checks for the law firm, the name(s) of the lawyer(s) who are responsible for reconciliation of the law firm’s trust account(s) monthly and annually and the name(s) of the lawyer(s) who are responsible for answering any questions that lawyers in the firm may have about the firm’s trust account(s). This written plan must be updated and re-issued to each lawyer in the firm whenever there are material changes to the plan, such as a change in the lawyer(s) signing trust account checks and/or reconciliation of the firm’s trust account(s).

    (2) Every lawyer is responsible for that lawyer’s own actions regarding trust account funds subject to the requirements of chapter 4 of these rules. Any lawyer who has actual knowledge that the firm’s trust account(s) or trust accounting procedures are not in compliance with chapter 5 may report the noncompliance to the managing partner or shareholder of the lawyer’s firm. If the noncompliance is not corrected within a reasonable time, the lawyer must report the noncompliance to staff counsel for the bar if required to do so pursuant to the reporting requirements of chapter 4.

(d) Minimum Trust Accounting Procedures. The minimum trust accounting procedures that must be followed by all members of The Florida Bar (when a choice of laws analysis indicates that the laws of Florida apply) who receive or disburse trust money or property are as follows:

    (1) The lawyer is required to make monthly:

      (A) reconciliations of all trust bank or savings and loan association accounts, disclosing the balance per bank, deposits in transit, outstanding checks identified by date and check number, and any other items necessary to reconcile the balance per bank with the balance per the checkbook and the cash receipts and disbursements journal; and

      (B) a comparison between the total of the reconciled balances of all trust accounts and the total of the trust ledger cards or pages, together with specific descriptions of any differences between the 2 totals and reasons for the differences.


    (2) The lawyer is required to prepare an annual detailed list identifying the balance of the unexpended trust money held for each client or matter.

    (3) The above reconciliations, comparisons, and listings must be retained for at least 6 years.

    (4) The lawyer or law firm must authorize, at the time the account is opened, and request any bank or savings and loan association where the lawyer is a signatory on a trust account to notify Staff Counsel, The Florida Bar, 651 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300, in the event the account is overdrawn or any trust check is dishonored or returned due to insufficient funds or uncollected funds, absent bank error.

    (5) The lawyer must file with The Florida Bar between June 1 and August 15 of each year a trust accounting certificate showing compliance with these rules on a form approved by the board of governors. If the lawyer fails to file the trust accounting certificate, the lawyer will be deemed a delinquent member and ineligible to practice law.


(e) Electronic Wire Transfers. Authorized electronic transfers from a lawyer or law firm’s trust account are limited to:

    (1) money required to be paid to a client or third party on behalf of a client;

    (2) expenses properly incurred on behalf of a client, such as filing fees or payment to third parties for services rendered in connection with the representation;

    (3) money transferred to the lawyer for fees which are earned in connection with the representation and which are not in dispute; or

    (4) money transferred from one trust account to another trust account.


(f) Record Retention. A lawyer or law firm that receives and disburses client or third-party funds or property must maintain the records required by this chapter for 6 years subsequent to the final conclusion of each representation in which the trust funds or property were received.

(g) Audits. Any of the following are cause for The Florida Bar to order an audit of a trust account:


    (1) failure to file the trust account certificate required by rule 5-1.2(c)(5);

    (2) return of a trust account check for insufficient funds or for uncollected funds, absent bank error;

    (3) filing of a petition for creditor relief on behalf of a lawyer;

    (4) filing of felony charges against a lawyer;

    (5) adjudication of insanity or incompetence or hospitalization of a lawyer under The Florida Mental Health Act;

    (6) filing of a claim against a lawyer with the Clients’ Security Fund;

    (7) when requested by the chair or vice chair of a grievance committee or the board of governors; or

    (8) upon court order; or

    (9) upon entry of an order of disbarment, on consent or otherwise.


(h) Cost of Audit. Audits conducted in any of the circumstances enumerated in this rule will be at the cost of the lawyer audited only when the audit reveals that the lawyer was not in substantial compliance with the trust accounting requirements. It will be the obligation of any lawyer who is being audited to produce all records and papers concerning property and funds held in trust and to provide such explanations as may be required for the audit. Records of general accounts are not required to be produced except to verify that trust money has not been deposited in them. If it has been determined that trust money has been deposited into a general account, all of the transactions pertaining to any firm account will be subject to audit.

(i) Failure to Comply With Subpoena for Trust Accounting Records. Failure of a member to timely produce trust accounting records will be considered as a matter of contempt and process in the manner provided in subdivision (d) and (f) of rule 3-7.11, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.


[Revised: 06/01/2014]