Ethics and Client Money: Trust Funds, Setoffs and Retainers

Friday October 20, 2017

Whenever an attorney takes money from a client – for fees billed, to cover expenses, as a retainer, or held in trust – there are substantial ethical issues involved.  Many ethical complaints arise from client accusations that an attorney mishandled funds.  In billing and collecting fees and expenses, there are issues about whether the fees and expenses were explained in advance and are proper in amount in relation to services delivered.  If an attorney accepts credit cards from clients, there significant issue related to disclosure, Truth-in-Lending laws, chargebacks, pass-through of merchant processing fees, and confidentiality.  In trust funds, there are issues of segregation of funds, accounting, setoff of dispute amounts, and more. This program will provide you with a practical guide to the many ethical issues that arise when attorneys, clients, and money mix.

Handout Materials Will be Emailed to You Prior to the Seminar

Starts 12:00 p.m.
1.0, including 1 hour of ethics MCLE Credit Hours


·         Lawyers ethics in taking and handling client money

·         Traps in trust fund accounting and the risks of “set-offs” of disputed amounts

·         Disclosure and documentation of trust accounting of client money

·         Retainers – use, accounting, and regular communications

·         Accepting credit card payments from clients –  pass-through processing fees, Truth-in-Lending, disclosure and confidentiality

·         Confidentiality when a client has a dispute with his credit card company – ethical tension of client duties and contractual obligations

·         Use of credit cards to fund a retainer and related trust fund accounting issues – trust funds v. operating funds


Thomas E. Spahn, McGuireWoods, LLP – McLean, Virginia