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Can the Clients' Security Fund Help You?

Q:  What is the Clients’ Security Fund?
A: 
The Clients’ Security Fund of Ohio is an agency established by the Supreme Court of Ohio to reimburse legal clients for losses resulting from the dishonest conduct of a licensed Ohio attorney. The Clients’ Security Fund is not taxpayer-supported, but receives all of its funding from attorney registration fees paid by every licensed Ohio attorney.

Q:  What types of losses are covered?
A:
  The Clients’ Security Fund reimburses losses resulting from the dishonest conduct of a licensed Ohio attorney. “Dishonest conduct” includes theft, misappropriation, or embezzlement of client funds or property. Dishonest conduct does not inculde negligence or malpractice by an attorney. Therefore, losses resulting from an attorney’s malpractice or negligence cannot be reimbursed through the Clients’ Security Fund.

Q:  Can I receive reimbursement of legal fees paid to my attorney?
A:
  Legal fees will be reimbursed when the attorney fails to provide the services for which he or she was paid. Legal fees are not reimbursable simply because the client is dissatisfied with the services provided or with the results obtained.

Q:  Who can apply for reimbursement from the Clients’ Security Fund?
A:
  Almost any legal client who believes he or she has lost money or property as a result of a theft, embezzlement or misappropriation by his or her attorney may file an application for reimbursement with the Clients’ Security Fund. An attorney/client relationship, or a fiduciary relationship, must exist between the client/applicant and the attorney. However, a guardian or other legal representative of a claimant may pursue a claim on behalf of the client. Except where special or unusual circumstances exist, the following are not eligible for reimbursement from the Clients’ Security Fund:  the attorney’s spouse, children, parents, grandparents or siblings; business partners, employers or employees of the attorney; or a business controlled by the attorney. 

Q:  Who decides whether a client/applicant qualifies for reimbursement?
A:
  The Board of Commissioners of the Clients’ Security Fund determines which applicants are eligible for reimbursement. The Board of Commissioners is composed of seven individuals who are appointed by the Supreme Court of Ohio. At least one of the seven commissioners must be a non-lawyer. They serve three-year terms, and the Board meets four times each year.

Q:  How much can I receive as reimbursement from the Clients’ Security Fund?
A:
  The Clients’ Security Fund can reimburse the full amount of the loss up to a maximum of $75,000. Reimbursement does not include the payment of interest or other incidental losses.

Q:  How can I file an application for reimbursement with the Clients’ Security Fund?
A:
  Application forms may be obtained from the Clients’ Security Fund by calling the following toll-free number:  800-231-1680 (in Ohio only), or by calling (614) 387-9390. Application forms are also available from many local bar associations, or through http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Boards/clientSecurity/clmform.pdf. The application must be filed within one year of the occurrence or the discovery of the attorney’s dishonest act. There are no fees associated with filing an application for reimbursement, and clients do not need the assistance of an attorney to file a claim. 

5/4/2012

Law You Can Use  is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. This article was prepared by Janet Green Marbley, administrator of the Clients’ Security Fund of Ohio.

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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