End-of-life notice: American Legal Ethics Library
As of March 1, 2013, the Legal Information Institute is no longer maintaining the information in the American Legal Ethics Library. It is no longer possible for us to maintain it at a level of completeness and accuracy given its staffing needs. It is very possible that we will revive it at a future time. At this point, it is in need of a complete technological renovation and reworking of the "correspondent firm" model which successfully sustained it for many years.
Many people have contributed time and effort to the project over the years, and we would like to thank them. In particular, Roger Cramton and Peter Martin not only conceived ALEL but gave much of their own labor to it. We are also grateful to Brad Wendel for his editorial contributions, to Brian Toohey and all at Jones Day for their efforts, and to all of our correspondents and contributors. Thank you.
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Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct
Comment - Rule 1.14
1. A lawyer should hold property of others with the care required of a professional fiduciary. Securities should be kept in a safe deposit box, except when some other form of safekeeping is warranted by special circumstances. All property which is the property of clients or third persons should be kept separate from the lawyer's business and personal property and, if monies, in one or more trust accounts. Separate trust accounts may be warranted when administering estate monies or acting in similar fiduciary capacities. Paragraph (a) requires that complete records of the funds and other property be maintained.
2. Lawyers often receive funds from third parties from which the lawyer's fee will be paid. These funds should be deposited into a lawyer's trust account. If there is risk that the client may divert the funds without paying the fee, the lawyer is not required to remit the portion from which the fee is to be paid. However, a lawyer may not hold funds to coerce a client into accepting the lawyer's contention. The disputed portion of the funds should be kept in trust and the lawyer should suggest means for prompt resolution of the dispute, such as arbitration. The undisputed portion of the funds should be promptly distributed to those entitled to receive them by virtue of the representation. A lawyer should not use even that portion of trust account funds due to the lawyer to make direct payment to general creditors of the lawyer of the lawyer's firm, because such a course of dealing increases the risk that all the assets of that account will be viewed as the lawyer's property rather than that of clients, and thus as available to satisfy the claims of such creditors. When a lawyer receives from a client monies that constitute a prepayment of a fee and that belongs to the client until the services are rendered, the lawyer should handle the fund in accordance with paragraph (c). After advising the client that the service has been rendered and the fee earned, and in the absence of a dispute, the lawyer may withdraw the fund from the separate account. Paragraph (c) does not prohibit participation in an IOLTA or similar program.
3. Third parties, such as a client's creditors, may have just claims against funds or other property in a lawyer's custody. A lawyer may have a duty under applicable law to protect such third-party claims against wrongful interference by the client, and accordingly may refuse to surrender the property to the client. However, a lawyer should not unilaterally assume to arbitrate a dispute between the client and the third party.
4. The obligations of a lawyer under this Rule are independent of those arising from activity other than rendering legal service. For example, a lawyer who serves as an escrow agent is governed by the applicable law relating to fiduciaries even though the lawyer does not render legal services in the transaction.