What is the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection?
The Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection is a fund established by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reimburse clients who suffer loss of money or other property from the dishonest conduct of their attorney. The Fund is a remedy for clients who cannot be repaid from other sources, such as from insurance or from the attorney involved. Claimants are expected to make reasonable efforts to collect from these other sources first.
Why was the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Established?
The legal profession depends upon the trust of clients. When a lawyer betrays that trust by taking client funds, it is important that the victims be fairly compensated.
How is the Fund Financed?
Members of the State Bar of Wisconsin are assessed annual fees to finance the Fund. The amount of the assessment is determined by the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Committee each year, per Supreme Court Rule.
Who Administers the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection?
The Fund is administered by the State Bar of Wisconsin, per Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule. The Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Committee has five lawyer members and two non-lawyer members.
How Does the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Committee Operate and Make Decisions?
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has adopted written rules for the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Committee. The Committee follows these rules in its procedures and decisions. The Board is allowed a good deal of discretion in deciding what claims to pay and deny, and the amount of payment.
What Kinds of Losses are Covered?
The Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection covers most situations in which lawyers have misappropriated clients' money or other property entrusted to them. The attorney in question must be a Wisconsin lawyer, and must have served the client as an attorney in a fiduciary capacity (as administrator, executor, trustee of an express trust, guardian, or conservator), arising from an attorney-client relationship.
What is the Maximum Amount Recoverable?
The maximum amount the Board may pay on a claim is based on the table below:
August 1, 2009-present $150,000
July 1, 1996-August 1, 2009 $75,000
July 1, 1995-June 30, 1996 $45,000
What Kinds of Losses are Not Covered?
The Fund does not cover losses resulting from:
- The malpractice or negligence of lawyers
- Disputes over the quality or timeliness of service
- Incidental or consequential damages, such as interest, court costs, or lost opportunities
In addition, the fund will not provide reimbursement if any of the following apply:
- The person suffering the loss is related to the attorney as a spouse, child, parent, grandparent, brother or sister, or is the attorney's partner, business associate, or employee.
- The loss is covered by insurance, bond, or similar protection. However, if such protection covers only part of the loss, the part not covered may be eligible for reimbursement.
- The loss can be recovered from the attorney.
- The claim is barred by a statute of limitation. Generally, such statutes would prevent any claim based on a dishonest act or acts occurring more than six years ago.
The Board does not have the authority to discipline attorneys for misconduct, to resolve fee disputes, or to determine legal malpractice claims. Such matters should be reported to the Office of Lawyer Responsibility.
What Happens When a Claim is Filed?
Each claim is reviewed to determine eligibility for payment. If a claim is denied, the claimant will be advised of the reasons for denial. The Committee determines the merit of all claims, and the amount of any reimbursement.
How is a Claim Filed?
A copy of the application for reimbursement may be downloaded or can be obtained by contacting the org wlcpf wisbar Client Protection administrator at (800) 444-9404, ext. 6623, or (608) 250-6623, or write to PO Box 7158, Madison, WI 53708-7158.