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 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 relation to services provided. If an attorney accepts credit cards from clients, there are significant issues 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, and more. This program will provide you with a practical guide to the many ethical issues that arise when attorneys, clients, and money mix.
· 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
Elizabeth Treubert Simon, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP – Washington, D.C.