Question from Martin, Is My Lawyer’s Offer to Send a Personal Check Suspicious?
Answer from AI:
When evaluating an offer from your lawyer, it’s important to consider standard legal practices and the ethical obligations that lawyers have towards their clients. Here are some points to consider:
Understanding Lawyer Trust Accounts
- Lawyers often hold funds on behalf of clients in trust accounts. These are separate from the lawyer’s personal or business accounts.
- Any settlements or awards are typically deposited into these accounts before being disbursed to clients.
- It is important for these funds to be handled properly to ensure there is no commingling (mixing) of client funds with the lawyer’s personal funds.
Evaluating the Offer
- It is unusual for a lawyer to offer to send a personal check to a client for a settlement or award.
- Such an offer could raise concerns about the management of the trust account and the lawyer’s financial stability or integrity.
- It is also important to consider the security of mailing checks. While mailing can be risky, there are secure methods such as certified mail that can mitigate this risk.
Red Flags to Watch Out For
- A lawyer offering to use personal funds to expedite payment could be a sign of financial mismanagement or other ethical issues.
- If the lawyer is suggesting they will “take all the funds” when the actual settlement arrives, this could potentially violate ethical rules regarding the proper allocation and disbursement of client funds.
- Any deviation from standard practice should be questioned and understood fully before agreeing.
Steps to Take
- Ask for clarification: Request a detailed explanation of why this approach is being suggested and how it aligns with ethical guidelines.
- Review your retainer agreement: Check the agreement you signed with your lawyer to understand the terms regarding payment and disbursement of funds.
- Consult another attorney: If you have doubts, it may be wise to seek a second opinion from another lawyer.
- Contact the state bar association: If you suspect unethical behavior, you can reach out to your state bar association for guidance.
While the offer from your lawyer may be well-intentioned, especially if the amount is small and the intention is to expedite your payment, it is not typical and raises several concerns. It is crucial to ensure that any actions taken by your lawyer are in compliance with legal and ethical standards. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with the offer, it is advisable to seek further clarification or a second opinion. Remember, when in doubt, always consult with a legal professional for personalized advice.