Trust Account Investigations
1. Bar Investigations
Trust account investigations usually begin with a bounced check. The banks are required to report overdrafts on IOLTA accounts to the State Bar. When the State Bar receives notice from the bank of an overdraft, the Bar immediately opens an investigation. The lawyer receives the letter from the Bar’s trust account examiner and is required to respond timely just as in any other Bar inquiry. Just as in regular Bar complaint situations, the question whether a lawyer should retain counsel to assist with the response depends on the particular facts at issue. I am very experienced with trust account cases and can quickly evaluate your case. Again, the worst thing that you can do is fail to respond. If you have any inclination to put that letter to the side and forget about it, call me or another experienced respondents’ counsel immediately. Do not be embarrassed if you do not understand what it is the Bar is asking for. You will certainly not be the first lawyer in that position, and probably will not be the last.
2. Trust Account Formal Proceedings
If you have represented yourself in an investigation, and the Bar found probable cause to charge you with a violation calling for a sanction of censure or above, you will receive a probable cause order. If you receive a probable cause order, a formal complaint filed with the Disciplinary Clerk’s Office will follow shortly. You should immediately retain experienced discipline counsel, for the same reasons described under “Formal Disciplinary Proceedings.”
3. Preventive Maintenance
If you have any concern that your trust account is not maintained exactly in accord with the rules, why wait for the Bar to find out about it? Schedule a meeting with me, at your office, and show me your books. Ask any questions you may have, without concern as to possible reprisal. For example, do you know what a three-way reconciliation is? If not, would you like somebody to explain it to you in plain English, along with the reasons why you need to do it? I can do that. If it turns out that your bookwork is not up to par, I can either advise you how to fix it yourself or help you hire staff to get that done—you don’t want or need to pay lawyer rates to balance your account. I can also provide training for your staff or assist you in obtaining that training at a reasonable price.