Despite what I seem to blog about most, there’s more to trust account management than worrying about scams. Much more. And, being that it’s Thursday, I thought I’d harken back to a blog I posted in April 2015.
But first, the back story.
I pay my mortgage by phone. During each of my monthly calls, the very kind robot tells me that “our records indicate that you last made payment using account number xxxxxx.” Then, the robot asks me if I’d like to use the same account. I always press 1 for “yes.”
Which gets me to the point of this post.
I don’t know how often it happens, but I suspect that it is not uncommon for a client to ask a lawyer to use funds in trust to pay a client’s credit card bill. Assuming the lawyer is holding sufficient funds from the client to cover the payment, nothing in the rules prohibits the lawyer from acceding to the request.
Exercise caution when choosing to pay a client’s creditors. It is probably a very bad idea to pay in the same manner that I pay my mortgage. And, as this case proves, well-intentioned deeds do not necessarily go unsactioned.
Any act that provides a third-party with access to a client trust account is serious problem.
Here’s the rub: imagine you disburse from trust to the creditor. Imagine further that, like the bank that holds my mortgage, the client’s creditor links your trust account number to the client’s debt. Finally, imagine that the next time client calls in to make a payment, the very kind robot tells client “our records indicate that you last made payment using account number xxxxx . . . would you like to use the same account again? Press 1 for ‘yes’ ?”
I don’t know about you, but when I pay my mortgage by phone I press “1” for “yes” as soon as the robot starts to ask the question, without even waiting to hear the account number that’s on file. A client who does the same might unwittingly cause payment to be made from the lawyer’s trust account. Funds belonging to other clients might be used to cover the transaction. That’s a violation of Rule 1.15(f)(2).
For more on this scenario, please review this post from April 2015.
Kudos and thank you to long-time reader Peter Zuk.