The Florida Bar
  1. Home
  2. For The Public
  3. Clients’ Security Fund

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 fees were paid to the attorney and no useful services were provided or if the attorney misappropriated the 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, a grievance must be filed against the attorney. Call the Bar’s Attorney/Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) at 866-352-0707 or go online 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. Claimants must provide evidence the money was in the attorney’s possession.

Losses Not Considered

The Clients’ Security Fund does not reimburse for losses resulting from negligence, fee disputes or malpractice by the attorney. Business or investment relationships with 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 the funds or property.

Losses resulting from 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 fees were paid to the attorney and no work was done, you may recover the actual amount of the fees paid, up to $5,000. Fees are not reimbursed due to dissatisfaction with the services or because work was not completed. Fee claims are paid throughout the year as they are approved.

If the attorney misappropriated money, you may recover the actual 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, payment will be made for 100% of the 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 year starts July 1 and ends June 30. Payments are generally mailed in September for claims that are approved by the Board of Governors before June 30.

Time Frame to File a Claim

To be considered timely, the claim must be filed 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, call ACAP 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 the claim is missing information, you will be contacted and asked to provide the information. If all required information is included in the claim, the attorney may 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 the claim through the process. Once the investigation is complete, the claim is reported to the Clients’ Security Fund Committee. The committee recommendation then goes to a member of the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar called a designated reviewer. The reviewer’s recommendation then goes to the full Board, which makes the final decision 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 the money or property, you could be required to pursue the alternate source before the Clients’ Security Fund considers the 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 before the claim may be considered.

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: 4/24