Consumer Pamphlet: Clients’ Security Fund
Note: This pamphlet is available online only.
What is the Clients’ Security Fund?
What losses are covered?
What losses are not covered?
How much can I recover?
Who should apply to the fund?
How long do I have to file a claim?
How is a claim processed?
How long does it take?
What will I be required to do?
What if I have more questions?
The Clients’ Security Fund was created to help reimburse you for money you may have lost because of misappropriation by your attorney.
The Clients’ Security Fund began operations in 1967. Florida attorneys developed the program, which is funded solely by a portion of the annual membership fees of each member of The Florida Bar.
The Fund is discretionary. This means the Fund does not have to pay your claim. Your claim can be denied, even if it is one of the types of losses covered.
If you paid your attorney fees and your attorney did not provide any useful services, you may be reimbursed the amount of the fees you paid up to $5,000. Approved fee claims are paid throughout the year as they are approved.
If your attorney misappropriated or embezzled your money held in trust, you may recover the amount of misappropriated or embezzled funds up to a total of $250,000. All claim payments are held until the end of each fiscal year (June 30), and if the funds exist to pay all approved claims in full, those payments are made. If there are not enough funds available to pay all approved claims in full, payments are made on a pro rata (partial) basis.
Approved misappropriation payments are made once per year after the Bar fiscal year closes on June 30.
The loss must have occurred during an attorney and client relationship or while the attorney was providing services customary to the practice of law. Fees paid to an attorney for legal services may be reimbursed only after it is determined that no useful services were provided.
The Clients’ Security Fund does not reimburse for losses as a result of negligence or malpractice on the part of the attorney. Business or investment relationships between you and the attorney are also not covered. The reimbursable loss is limited to the actual amount taken by the attorney and does not include damages, expenses incurred, lost interest, etc. caused by the attorney taking or mishandling of your funds or property.
Losses as a result of family relationships, partnerships or other associations may be denied. Normally, claims by governmental agencies, publicly owned corporations, institutional lenders, insurance companies and subrogees are not considered.
If you paid your attorney fees and they did not provide any useful services, you may be reimbursed the amount of the fees you paid, up to $5,000. Approved fee claims are paid throughout the year as they are approved.
If your attorney misappropriated your money, you may recover the amount of misappropriated funds, up to $250,000. These type of claim payments are held until the end of each fiscal year. If the funds exist to pay all approved claims in full, you will receive a check for 100% of your approved loss amount. If there are not enough funds available to pay all approved claims in full, payments are made on a pro rata (partial) basis.
Approved misappropriation payments are made once per year after the Florida Bar’s fiscal year closes. The Bar’s fiscal years start on July 1st and end June 30th of the following year. Checks are generally mailed by September for claims that were approved by the Board before June 30th.
If you have paid fees to your attorney and no useful services were provided or if the attorney misappropriated your money or property, you may file a claim with the Fund.
If the claim is made on behalf of an estate or trust, the proper party to file is the personal representative of the estate or trustee of the trust.
In order to be considered timely, you must file your claim with the Bar within two years of the date of the final disciplinary action or, if you are making a claim because your attorney died, the date of death. The Bar may also consider a claim filed within four years of the date of the final disciplinary action or the date of death. Claims filed after two years but before the end of four years must show good cause for the claim being filed late. Claims filed four or more years after the date of the final disciplinary action, or the date of death, will be closed as time barred. If you are not sure of the date you can contact our ACAP Department at 866-352-0707.
An application to the Clients’ Security Fund is reviewed by the staff of The Florida Bar. If your claim is missing information, you will be contacted and asked to supply the information. If all required information is included in the claim, your attorney will be sent a letter and given an opportunity to respond. The claim will then be assigned to a member of the Clients’ Security Fund Committee for investigation. You may be contacted for more information. Responding promptly will help move your claim through the process. Once the investigation is complete, your claim is reported to the Clients’ Security Fund Committee. The recommendation from the committee to pay or to deny a claim then goes to a member of the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar called a Designated Reviewer (DR). The DR’s recommendation then goes to the full Board who makes the final decision on whether a claim will be approved or denied.
The average processing time of a claim is one year. Your claim may take longer. There are several steps to the process and the Bar wants to make sure that all claims are treated fairly and thoroughly investigated.
You must file a Clients’ Security Fund claim with The Florida Bar. You can access and print the Statement of Claim form here or call (850) 561-5812 to request a form. Make sure you answer all the questions and provide all documents that show payment to your attorney. You need to sign the form and mail to The Florida Bar, Clients’ Security Fund, 651 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-2300 or via email to [email protected]. Your cooperation in providing necessary information and documentation is necessary; however, you will not be asked to appear before the Clients’ Security Fund Committee or the Board of Governors.
Unless the attorney has already been disbarred, had their license revoked or is deceased, you must file a grievance complaint against your attorney. Call The Florida Bar’s ACAP department at 866-352-0707 or visit floridabar.org/acap for information on filing a complaint and for the proper form. You may also be required to file a criminal complaint against the attorney.
If it is apparent there may be another way to recover your money or property, you could be required to pursue the alternate source before the Clients’ Security Fund considers your claim. Such sources might be bonding or insurance companies, banks or other entities that have honored a forged check or draft, the accused attorney or the attorney’s partners, or the attorney’s estate in the case of a deceased attorney.
The Clients’ Security Fund staff will let you know whether you need to exhaust other remedies for your claim to be approved.
If you have any questions, please call the Clients’ Security Fund at (850) 561-5677 or send an e-mail to [email protected].
The material in this pamphlet represents general information. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this pamphlet may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities regarding your case.