What is Commingling?
Commingling is the act of attorneys mixing their own funds with clients’ funds. In the legal realm, this is a major ethical violation. The American Bar Association and all the states, including Florida, mandate that attorneys adhere to specific Rules of Professional Conduct.
If a Florida attorney has commingled his or her funds with that of the client, the client should immediately seek the advice of Florida Legal Malpractice attorneys. This commingling may well be indicative of Florida Legal Malpractice under the state’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
What Commingling Looks Like
Commingling occurs whenever an attorney fails to separate his or her funds from the accounts of their client, ward, or beneficiary. For example, when an attorney takes a retainer from a client, that retainer fee must be kept in a separate trust account. The attorney is only able to move funds from the trust account into the firm account once those funds are actually earned.
If your attorney obtains a settlement or judgment on your behalf, he or she cannot immediately place those funds into the firm’s account. Once the attorney drafts a detailed accounting of what exactly is owed to the firm in legal fees, and consent is received from the client, then the lawyer may put those fees into the law firm’s account.
Another example would be the improper mixing of filing fees. Florida attorneys may not “own” filing fees associated with a client’s case. [I don’t understand this – please explain] Due to this, filing fees and legal fees must be maintained in separate accounts.
Attorneys have an ethical obligation to keep a detailed ledger of how they have managed their client’s money.
Have you Been a Victim of Commingling?
It is considered a substantial ethical violation for an attorney to mishandle client funds. When harmed as a result, a victim of commingling may pursue legal action against the attorney. If you are the client of a Florida attorney, and you think that attorney has wrongfully commingled your funds, the Tampa Legal Malpractice Attorneys at the law offices of Wagner McLaughlin may be able to help. Don’t hesitate to contact them today at 813.225.4000.