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  • InsideTrack
  • June 03, 2015

    More than $430,000 in Reimbursements Approved for Victims of Lawyer Theft

    The Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection Committee reimburses 37 victims of lawyer theft over the past year.

    June 3, 2015 – The Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection Committee approved more than $430,000 in reimbursements to victims of lawyer theft for the fiscal year 2015 (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015).

    The Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, created by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1981, provides reimbursement to clients who incur financial losses from the dishonest conduct of their attorneys.

    The committee over the past year considered 37 claims involving 18 attorneys, approving reimbursements from 12 attorneys totaling $430,052.27 out of a total of requests for $909,788.54 in reimbursements.  

    The more than $430,000 approved for payment are the result of the acts of only a few lawyers, Wochos noted.

    “The significant financial damage done by those few is offset by the continued support of the thousands of attorneys who contribute to this fund.  While we are not our fellow attorneys’ keepers, this fund allows us to restore faith in the legal profession to those who have been victimized,” Wochos said.

    The claims include reimbursements for:

    • Misappropriation of funds: $163,236.64
    • Theft from an estate: $124,978.90
    • Unearned advanced fees: $68,609.78
    • Trust account conversion: $16,340.80

    “This year was better than last fiscal year, which was one of the worst in recent memory,” said committee chair Amy Wochos. “Once again, we determined that it was necessary to defer payment to nonindividual claimants, in order to pay out all valid individual claims considered this year. “

    Compensating Victims of Lawyer Misconduct

    Since 1981, more than $6 million has been returned to 845 victims of lawyer misconduct in Wisconsin.

    Each claim is individually investigated and reimbursement decisions are made at the discretion of the committee, which meets three times a year. Some of the money is returned to the committee fund via court-ordered restitution or voluntary payments from the lawyers who have approved claims against them.

    Wisconsin lawyers share in the efforts to make victims whole: A portion of every member’s State Bar dues finances the fund, with the amount of the assessment determined by the committee each year by Supreme Court Rule.

    For more information about the fund, contact Kris Wenzel or call (800) 444-9404, ext. 6185, or (608) 250-6185.

    Wenzel was recognized last month as the 2015 recipient of the Isaac Hecht Law Client Protection Award from the National Client Protection Organization for 25 years of work with the committee and her efforts to compensate victims of lawyer misconduct in Wisconsin.

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