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The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org
PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR

OPINION 71-67
February 22, 1972


It is improper for a law firm, which has obtained a judgment against a former client for unpaid fees, to acquire through writ of execution a stock certificate left with the firm by client for safekeeping. Whether a law firm has a valid lien against a client's property coming into its possession is a matter of law for the courts.

CPR: DR 9-102(B)
Opinion: 68-21
Integration Rule: Art. XI, >11.02(f)

Chairman Clarkson stated the opinion of the committee:

A Florida law firm obtained a judgment against a former client for unpaid fees. The firm has in its possession a stock certificate which the client left there for safekeeping. A member of the firm asks whether he may ethically cause the sheriff to seize the certificate under a writ of execution and then bid for it at the sheriff's sale.

We are unable to approve the suggested procedure. Possession of the stock certificate came about through the attorney-client relationship and is subject to the provisions of Section 11.02(4) of the Integration Rule. The Committee has previously suggested that the question whether a lawyer has a valid lien against a client's property coming into his hands is a question of law to be determined in appropriate proceedings. Florida Opinion 68-21. Absent the assertion of his claim in such a manner the lawyer is under a duty to promptly deliver to his client upon request any property in his possession which the client is entitled to receive. DR 9-102(B), CPR.

We adhere to opinion 68-21 and advise that the proper procedure would be to file an action seeking a retaining lien and let the court pass upon the legal rights of the parties.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]