The Florida Bar

March 28, 1961

It is improper for an attorney to advise his client's creditors that he holds funds due to the client so that such creditor may proceed against them, nor is it proper for the lawyer to interplead such funds. It is the lawyer's duty to represent his client with undivided fidelity and to preserve his confidences.

Canons: 6, 11, 37
Opinion: ABA 163

Chairman Holcomb stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar submits the following inquiry:

He states that he has funds in his possession belonging to a client who resides in California, and that he has knowledge of the claims of certain attorneys for services against these funds. He does not state the nature of these claims nor how they arose. He is in doubt as to his duty to forward these funds to his client without giving these attorneys an opportunity to garnish him or that he might interplead the parties.

The Canons of Professional Ethics read in part:

Canon 6: “The obligation to represent the client with undivided fidelity and not to divulge his secrets or confidences. . . .”

Canon 11: “Money of the client or collected for the client or other trust property coming into the possession of the lawyer should be reported and accounted for promptly. . . .”

Canon 37: “It is the duty of a lawyer to preserve his client's confidences.”

ABA Opinion 163 holds: It is improper for an attorney to advise any of his client's creditors that he has made a collection and that he will hold the money in order that the creditor may attach it.

This was a personal injury case where the lawyer advised his client's doctor and the hospital that the case had been settled and that he held the collection and would continue to do so for a short time so that the doctor and the hospital could attach it if the client refused to pay their reasonable charges.

Drinker, Legal Ethics, on “The Lawyer's Obligation to Other Lawyers,” at pages 196-198, says: “His duty is to his client, and he may not give away the client's rights or property. Nor may a lawyer, in courtesy to one to whom he has forwarded a claim, advise him of the location of the client's property in order that his correspondent may collect his fee. . . . A lawyer is not obliged to protect the claim of another lawyer to a fee, where he refers a case to the other, or even where he supersedes him.”

[Revised: 08-24-2011]