Client Protection Fund
The Fund's Mission
The Arizona Supreme Court established the Client Protection Fund ("CPF" or "the Fund") in 1961 to promote public confidence in the administration of justice and to preserve the legal profession's integrity by reimbursing people who have lost money because of dishonest conduct of lawyers admitted and licensed to practice in this state.
What is the Client Protection Fund and how is it funded?
The Client Protection Fund is a trust that is an entity separate from the State Bar of Arizona, but exists as part of the State Bar's business structure. The Client Protection Fund's Board of Trustees receives, holds, manages, and disburses money from the Fund. The Fund is a charitable organization and is not funded by taxpayer dollars. Each lawyer licensed to practice law in Arizona contributes a yearly assessment to the Fund. That money is invested, which allows the Fund to pay more claims. The Trustees can pay up to $250,000 in claims against one lawyer, and up to $100,000 per claimant.
Who administers the Fund?
A five-member Board of Trustees administers the Fund. The State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors appoints the four lawyers and one non-lawyer who volunteer their time. In addition, the Fund Administrator and other State Bar staff help the Trustees administer claims.
The Trustees evaluate claims, determine if they are eligible for payment, and compensate eligible claimants. The Trustees invest Fund money in accordance with the State Bar Board of Governors' investment policies. Each year the Trustees prepare and present an annual report to the Arizona Supreme Court and the State Bar Board of Governors.
Who is eligible to receive money from the Fund?
- People who have had a lawyer-client relationship with a lawyer
- People who have had a fiduciary relationship with a lawyer that is customary and related to the practice of law, such as an administrator, personal representative, executor, trustee, guardian, or conservator
Who is not eligible to receive money from the Fund?
- The present or former spouse of the lawyer
- The child, parent, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling of the lawyer, whether by blood or marriage
- Partners, associates, co-shareholders, or employees of the lawyer
- Any surety or bonding agency
- Any business entity controlled by the lawyer
- Any governmental entity or agency
- Medical providers or other third parties with claims against the lawyer
- Any business entity, however, the Trustees may approve payment of a claim that has been filed by a small, family-owned and operated business.
- Large companies and corporations are not considered eligible claimants
What types of losses are eligible for reimbursement?
Losses caused by the "dishonest conduct" of a lawyer, which is defined as:
- Wrongful acts such as theft or embezzlement of money
- The wrongful taking or conversion of money, property or other things of value
- Refusal to refund unearned fees received in advance when the lawyer performed no services or such an insignificant portion of the services agreed on that the refusal to refund the unearned fees could be considered a wrongful taking or conversion of money
- A lawyer's intentional dishonest or deceitful conduct that leads to the loss of money or property
What types of claims are not eligible for reimbursement?
- Claims based on the lawyer's negligence, incompetence, or malpractice
- Claims based on disputes about fees charged when the lawyer performed more than an insignificant amount of work
- Money a claimant gave to a lawyer for investment, loan, or any other purpose that did not arise from a lawyer-client relationship
- Claims requesting reimbursement for interest, legal fees paid to other lawyers, damages, or other expenses
Is there a time limit for filing a claim?
CPF claims must be filed no more than five years from the time the claimant knew, or should have known, of the lawyer's dishonest conduct. The Trustees, in their sole discretion, may consider claims filed after the time limit has expired.
What happens after I file my claim?
The Fund Administrator will review your claim. If additional information is needed, you will be asked for it in writing. When all of the necessary documentation is submitted, the Administrator will investigate your claim and determine if it is is eligible for consideration.
- If the Fund Administrator determines that the claim is not eligible for consideration, you will be notified in writing. You then have 30 days to request reconsideration. All requests will be forwarded to the Board of Trustees for reconsideration. If the Trustees deny your claim, you will be notified in writing. That decision is final and there is no further appeal process.
- If the Fund Administrator determines that your claim is eligible for consideration, a notice of claim and a copy of your claim will be sent to the lawyer, who is allowed 30 days to respond. If the lawyer submits a response, a copy will be sent to both you and the Trustees. Your claim will then be scheduled for consideration at a future board meeting.
- If the Trustees vote to pay your claim, and certain conditions apply as described below, then the Fund will issue a check to you. The certain conditions are that the lawyer must have been, for at least six months, dead, disbarred, on disability inactive status, suspended for longer than six months, placed on interim suspension, or convicted of a felony arising out of the facts alleged in your claim. If your claim has been approved, but is not yet eligible for payment, payment will be held until one of the events listed above occurs.
- If the Trustees deny your claim, you will be notified in writing and given an opportunity to request reconsideration. If you do submit a Request for Reconsideration, it will be forwarded to the Board of Trustees for consideration at a future Trustee meeting. If the Trustees deny your claim, you will be notified in writing. That decision is final and there is no further appeal process.
How long will it take to process my claim?
Processing a claim may take approximately six months to a year, or more, due to the eligibility requirements, investigation process, or the status of any discipline proceedings against the lawyer.
May I file charges with any other entities?
- Claimants should call the State Bar's Attorney Consumer Assistance Program ("A/CAP") at 602.340.7280 for more information about filing disciplinary complaints against lawyers.
- If your lawyer has died, you may be able to file a claim against the lawyer's estate. Please contact the Clerk of the Superior Court for your county or the county in which the lawyer worked and ask if a probate matter filed in the lawyer's name. The clerk's office also can help you to obtain the forms you need to file a claim against the lawyer's estate.
NOTE: Not filing a claim against the lawyer's estate will not automatically disqualify your Client Protection Fund claim, but the Trustees prefer claimants attempt to recover their loss from any other reasonable sources before filing a claim with the Fund.
- Persons involved in a fee dispute with a lawyer may contact the State Bar's Fee Arbitration Program at 602.340.7379.
- Claimants may also contact the Arizona Attorney General's Office at 602.542.5025 in Phoenix, or 520.628.6504 in Tucson.
- Claimants may have other options, and may wish to consult with a lawyer to determine what course of action to take.
For more information about the Client Protection Fund, please contact:
Karen Weigand, Client Protection Fund Administrator
Download the Fund's Claim for Relief form and Declaration of Trust in English.
Download the Fund's Claim for Relief form in Spanish.