Clients’ Security Fund

Clients’ Security Fund Frequently Asked Questions

What does “dishonest conduct” mean?
The words “dishonest conduct” basically mean theft and include wrongful acts committed by a lawyer, such as embezzlement, the wrongful taking or conversion of money, property or other things of value. “Dishonest conduct” does not include the negligent, inadequate or ineffective performance of services.

What are the requirements for being considered for reimbursement?
First, the client’s loss must have been caused by the dishonest conduct of a member of the D.C. Bar. Second, the D.C. Bar member must have represented the claimant as an attorney or in another fiduciary capacity. Third, the D.C. Bar member must have died, become mentally incompetent, been declared bankrupt, resigned from the practice of law in the District of Columbia, been suspended or been disbarred by the D.C. Court of Appeals. Fourth, the client must have used all other available ways to recover the loss, including reasonable attempts to obtain payment from the lawyer by demand, insurance, or lawsuit.

How do I file a claim with the Clients’ Security Fund?
Call the D.C. Bar at (202) 737-4700, ext. 3237, to speak to the Bar’s administrator for the Fund. If the general circumstances of your loss meet the Fund’s guidelines, an application for reimbursement will be sent to you.

How does the process work?
You will receive a detailed application for reimbursement, which gives you an opportunity to describe the circumstances that resulted in financial loss. Receipts, copies of court orders, and other documents will be necessary to substantiate the facts in your application. One of the Fund’s volunteer Trustees will be assigned to your case. Generally, the final disposition takes about six months - depending upon the complexity of the situation involved. You will receive written notice about the disposition of your case. The Trustees’ decision is final.

May I attend the meeting when the Trustees discuss my case?
Clients are not usually in attendance. However, the Trustees may determine that your presence would be necessary to assist in considering the claim.

Do I need an attorney to represent me?
No.

What can I do to help my case?
The client should submit with the application the following documents:

  1. proof of the loss alleged in the claim
  2. evidence of an attorney/client or other fiduciary relationship;
  3. records of the efforts made to recover the loss, including possible court action; and
  4. information showing that the attorney is deceased, disciplined or declared mentally incompetent.

Does the client have the right to be reimbursed by the Fund?
There is no absolute right to reimbursement. The circumstances of each individual case will determine if the case meets the rules of the Find. Certain kinds of losses - such as those resulting from negligence or other malpractice - may not be reimbursed. The Clients’ Security Fund is to be viewed as a Fund of last resort.

By what other means might I obtain relief?
If you believe that your attorney provided negligent, ineffective, or inadequate representation, you may contact the Office of Bar Counsel at (202) 638-1501. The Office of Bar Counsel serves as the Bar’s disciplinary arm. If you believe that your loss resulted from excessive fees, or misunderstanding of what fees should be paid for given services, you should contact the Bar’s Attorney/Client Arbitration Board at (202) 737-4700, ext. 3216.