The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 72-13

May 9, 1972
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
It is improper for a law firm to place trust funds of clients in interest-bearing certificates or
deposits so as to obtain sufficient interest to reimburse the law firm for actual expenses of
administration of the funds.

DR 9-102(b)(4)
Committeeman Daniels stated the opinion of the committee:
A Professional Association states that its clients’ trust account balance
averages some $300,000 a month and estimates that its administrative expense in
maintaining and handling such trust account is some $8,000 a year. Inquiry is
made as to whether it would be proper to place some of the trust funds in interest
bearing certificates or deposits so as to obtain sufficient interest to reimburse the
Association for its actual expenses. The majority of the Committee concludes that
the proposed arrangement would be improper. DR 9-102(B)(4) requires a lawyer
to “Promptly pay . . . to the client as requested by a client the funds . . . in the
possession of the lawyer which the client is entitled to receive.”
The use of time certificates or deposits would impede the lawyer’s duty of
prompt payment. Likewise, if earned interest were to benefit the lawyer, such fact
would create serious conflicts of interest between the lawyer and his client.
Situations could arise where the lawyer might gain financially by delaying the
closing of a client’s matter. Other potential conflicts of interest could arise as
between the lawyer and the various clients inter sese. All of these conflicts would
be overshadowed by the impact of federal income tax laws.

A minority of the Committee feels that under limited circumstances and upon express
consent of all the clients involved, it could be proper to invest their trust funds in time deposits or
certificates and use the income to pay the lawyer’s actual expenses in maintaining and handling
such trust funds. All Committee members agree that upon direction of a client, a lawyer may
invest the client’s trust funds in interest bearing accounts and account to the client for the