What is the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection?
The Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection is a fund created by the Delaware Supreme Court to provide monetary relief to clients who have suffered financial losses as a result of the dishonest conduct of lawyers.
Dishonest conduct means the wrongful taking of client's money or other property, and the conduct must have taken place on or after January 1, 1967. While acts of attorney dishonesty are the exceptions and not the rule, the fund was established to show the good faith of all members of
the Delaware Bar. The fund is a remedy of last resort for clients who cannot get reimbursement from other sources, such as insurance or the attorney involved.
Why was the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Established?
The legal profession depends upon the trust of clients. Very few attorneys breach that trust. Nonetheless, it is important that the profession's reputation for honesty be maintained and protected. The Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection serves this function by providing reimbursement to clients whose money or property has been wrongfully taken by attorneys admitted to practice law in the State of Delaware.
How is the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Financed?
No tax dollars are used. The Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection is financed by the contributions of the approximately 2,600 attorneys admitted to practice law in the State of Delaware (except for those few attorneys who are not actually practicing or whose entire practice
consists of providing pro bono legal services to the needy).
Who Administers the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection?
The Fund is administered by a Board of Trustees appointed by the
Delaware Supreme Court. The nine Trustees, seven members of the Delaware State Bar and two lay persons, serve on this Board as a public service and without compensation.
Can I Get Money if My Lawyer Did a Bad Job?
If your attorney was negligent, you may be able to sue him or her in civil court for your losses. The Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection is set up to pay only when lawyers commit dishonest acts such as theft or embezzlement. The Trustees do not have the authority to discipline attorneys for misconduct, resolve fee disputes or determine legal malpractice claims. Persons involved in fee disputes with their attorneys should contact Fee Dispute Conciliation and Mediation, c/o Delaware State Bar Association, 301 N. Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801, tel. no.
(302) 658-5279. Complaints of misconduct may be directed to Disciplinary Counsel, 820 N. French Street, 11th Floor, Wilmington, DE 19801, tel. no. (302) 577-7042.
What Happens After a Claim is Filed?
Each claim will be reviewed to determine eligibility for reimbursement. An eligible claim will be investigated and a report will be prepared for the Trustees. Any ineligible claim will be dismissed and the claimant will be advised of the reasons why the claim is ineligible for reimbursement. The Trustees will determine the merit of all eligible claims. They will also determine, in their discretion, the amount of reimbursement in each case, and the time and manner of payment. Factors the Trustees consider in determining the monetary amount of an individual award include the amount of money available to the Fund, the number of claimants seeking
reimbursement and the degree of hardship suffered by each claimant. The fact that you have filed a claim does not ensure that you will receive a monetary award, or that an award will be for the amount claimed by you.
When Must a Claim Be Filed?
A claim for reimbursement must be filed with the Fund within two years after the client discovers the loss.
How Do I File a Claim?
A simple claim form with supporting documentation or other information and assistance is
available by writing the Fund at 820 N. French Street, 11th Floor, Wilmington, DE 19801 or by calling (302) 577-7034. A claimant is not required to be represented by an attorney to process a claim with the Fund. Theft or other dishonest or improper conduct by an attorney should
also be reported to the Office of the Attorney General, 820 N. French Street, Wilmington, DE 19801, and to
Disciplinary Counsel, 820 N. French Street, 11th Floor, Wilmington, DE 19801.