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Clients’ Security Fund

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Clients’ Security Fund

(Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: Chapter 7)

The Clients’ Security Fund was created to provide monetary relief to people who may have suffered a loss because of misappropriation by an attorney. It is funded solely by a portion of the annual membership fees paid by each member of The Florida Bar and is discretionary, meaning the fund is not obligated to pay any claim.

The Clients’ Security Fund will not consider a claim against a member who is in good standing and eligible to practice law. Discipline in the form of a suspension, disbarment or revocation is a prerequisite to a claim being considered, unless the attorney is deceased.

Applying to the Fund

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.

Prerequisite to Filing a Claim

Unless the attorney has already been disbarred, had their license revoked or is deceased, you must file a grievance against the attorney. Call The Florida Bar’s Attorney/Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) at 866-352-0707 or visit the ACAP webpage for information on filing a grievance.

Losses Considered

The loss must have occurred during an attorney/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.

Losses Not Considered

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 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.

Maximum Recovery Amounts

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 payment 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 and typically mailed by September 30.

Time Frame to File a Claim

To be considered timely, you must file your claim within three years of the date of the final disciplinary action or within three years of the date of death. Claims filed more than three years after the date of the final disciplinary action, or the date of death will not be considered. If you are not sure of the date you can contact our ACAP Department at 866-352-0707.

Processing Time of a Claim

There are several steps to process a Clients’ Security Fund claim. The Bar wants to make sure all claims are treated fairly and thoroughly investigated. As each claim is unique, the processing time will be different for every claim.  It is not unusual for a claim to take more than 12 months to process.

Claim Process

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 provide 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. After a final decision has been made, a letter will be mailed to inform the claimant of the outcome of the claim.

Exhausting Other Remedies

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. You may also be required to file a criminal complaint against the attorney. The Clients’ Security Fund staff will let you know whether you need to exhaust other remedies for your claim to be approved.

This material represents general information. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this material may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities regarding your case.

Revised: 3/22

To ensure the timely processing of CSF claims, please review the following instructions before submission. It is not unusual for a claim to take more than 12 months to process.

  • Please submit one claim form for each attorney.
  • Please limit your submission to 25 pages including attachments and number the pages.
  • Please do not bind, staple, tab or index your documents.
  • Please do not highlight documents or submit materials in color. When documents are scanned, highlighting and color may obscure the underlying text.
  • Please do not attach media like audio tapes, thumb/flash drives, or CDs. We cannot process any media that cannot be scanned into the electronic record.
  • Please do not submit .jpeg, .mpeg, .mp3, or links to online materials including Dropbox, as these items are difficult to incorporate into the electronic record.
  • Please do not submit original supporting documents, as documents will be discarded after scanning.
  • Please attach proof of payment that the funds you seek to recover were in the attorney’s possession or control. Examples: Receipts, front/back of canceled personal checks, settlement checks, money orders, credit card statements, bank statements, etc.
  • Please do not submit items that may contain privileged information. Examples include: Bank account, social security, and credit card account numbers; records concerning juvenile dependency, juvenile delinquency, termination of parental rights, guardians ad litem, child abuse, adoption, and medical treatment, mental health and substance abuse; documents containing names of minor children; original birth and death certificates; biometric data such as fingerprints; and grand jury records. If information of this nature is important to your claim, describe it generally and indicate that it is available upon request.
  • Attachments may be in paper form if you intend to mail your submission using a postal service. Attachments may be in electronic form if you intend to email your submission; if possible, please combine electronic attachments in one attachment.
  • Please sign the claim form; unsigned forms will be returned.
  • Please send your submission only one time; do not submit duplicates via email, facsimile transmission or by any other means.
  • Please allow 90 days to receive an acknowledgment letter from The Florida Bar that will include the claim number.

If submitting by email, send to [email protected].

If submitting by regular mail, send to:

Clients’ Security Fund
The Florida Bar
651 E. Jefferson St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-2300

Questions? Email [email protected] or call 850-561-5812.