The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

Annual Reports: Clients’ Security Fund


Clients’ Security Fund

It is with great pride and privilege that I submit this annual report on behalf of the Clients’ Security Fund. way of background, The Florida Bar Clients’ Security Fund (CSF) was established to reimburse clients who have suffered a loss of their money as a result of misappropriation, embezzlement, or other wrongful taking or conversion by a member of The Florida Bar in the course of an attorney-client relationship. The Clients’ Security Fund is currently financed by $25 of every Bar member’s annual dues and has over $2.1 million budgeted for fiscal year 09-10 to pay claims. The maximum payable on any misappropriation claim is $250,000. The fund also reimburses clients up to $2,500 for legal fees when the attorney fails to provide any useful services. In the last fiscal year, the fund received 439 claims and paid out more than $1.6 million on claims. As of the date of this report, the fund has received 469 new claims for this fiscal year and approved losses in excess of $1.9 million. Fee claims are paid as approved, whereas misappropriation claims are paid on a pro rata basis at the end of the fiscal year. Since its inception, the Clients’ Security Fund has paid out over $21 million dollars to over 8,300 claimants.

Procedurally, claims are filed in writing by the former client, reviewed by Bar staff and, when appropriate, referred to a member of the committee for investigation. The 2009-10 committee is made up of 27 attorneys appointed from all regions of Florida by the Bar’s president. The committee formally meets four times during the year, but is actively engaged in the review and investigation of claims and participates in interim meetings. Although committee meetings are confidential, final action on claims is subject to limited disclosure. Committee recommendations are submitted to the Board of Governors for final consideration.

While we often do not know the reason for an attorney’s dishonesty, regardless of the reason, defalcations by attorneys profoundly damage the public trust in members of the Bar and the legal system. Too often, the image of the entire legal profession is tarnished by the acts of a few members. However, we are an integrated Bar and one of the most active in the nation. Given the size of our membership, I must point out that claims are made against less than one-half of one percent of Florida lawyers. The work of the Clients’ Security Fund is an integral part of the disciplinary and regulatory process of the Bar and provides a vehicle of recovery and mitigation of losses to clients and the public whose trust and confidence in the attorney has been impacted. The work of the committee is but one way to address the dishonesty and fractured trust of an errant lawyer. The fund is but one more way in which the Bar strives to improve the public’s perception of the Bar as a whole and to restore confidence in the profession.

My tenure as a member of the Clients’ Security Fund and the privilege of serving as chair has been both personally and professionally rewarding. I am reminded of the preamble to admission to The Florida Bar, which provides in part that the ability to practice law is not a right, but rather a privilege which is revocable for cause. The Clients’ Security Fund, along with all of the other committees and sections, are truly the backbone of our Bar and profession and service to the Bar is but one more privilege that a member can have.

I must also take this opportunity not only to extend my thanks to our diligent committee members, but especially to the Bar’s staff, who support the committee with tireless commitment. They are Lori S. Holcomb, CSF director, Patricia J. Osborne, CSF coordinator, and Stacey Thrash, CSF clerk. You all are the best!

Warren Jay Stamm, Chair