The Fund's Mission
The Client Protection Fund ("Fund") was established by the Supreme Court of Arizona in 1961. Its purpose is to promote public confidence in the administration of justice, and to preserve the integrity of the legal profession by reimbursing people who have sustained losses caused by the dishonest conduct of lawyers admitted and licensed to practice in Arizona.
View the Client Protection Fund 2019 Annual Report here.
The Fund is a trust that exists as a separate entity from the State Bar of Arizona. The Fund's Board of Trustees receives, holds, manages, and disburses money from the Fund. The Fund 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 $100,000 on one individual claim, and up to $250,000 total in claims against one lawyer.
The basic requirements that must be met in order for a claim to be eligible for consideration by the Fund include (but may not be limited to):
- The lawyer must be admitted and licensed to practice in Arizona (can be admitted and licensed in other states, but must also be an Arizona lawyer).
- The claimant must have had a lawyer-client relationship with the lawyer, or a fiduciary relationship with the lawyer that is related to the practice of law, such as an administrator, personal representative, executor, trustee, guardian, or conservator.
- The loss must have been caused by the "dishonest conduct" of the lawyer. For the purpose of the Fund, "dishonest conduct" means:
- Wrongful acts in the nature of theft or embezzlement of money, or the wrongful taking or conversion of money, property or other things of value;
- Failure to refund unearned fees received in advance when no work was performed; or,
- A lawyer's act of intentional dishonesty or deceit that proximately leads to the loss of money or property.
- The lawyer must meet one of the following criteria before a claim is considered eligible for consideration:
- Suspended for longer than six months by Supreme Court order;
- Disbarred by Supreme Court order;
- Placed on Interim Suspension by Supreme Court order;
- Transferred to disability inactive status;
- Deceased; or,
- Convicted of a felony arising out of the facts of the claim.
(NOTE: If the lawyer has received no disciplinary sanction, or has received less than a six month and one day suspension or disbarment, any claim filed against the lawyer will not be eligible for consideration.)
- The claim must be filed within five (5) years from the time the claimant knew, or should have known, of the lawyer's dishonest conduct.
- Any supporting documentation that you feel will prove what you allege in your claim. Include copies of proof of payment to the lawyer and/or that the lawyer received money on your behalf (such as: front and back of canceled checks, receipts, billing statements, fee agreements, copies of settlement information, etc.). This information is required and claims without this information may be denied for lack of proof.*
*NOTE: The attorney discipline process is separate from the Client Protection Fund. If you have already filed a State Bar complaint against the attorney, you may have to submit copies of documents with this claim that you have already submitted to the State Bar with your discipline complaint. Your assistance is appreciated.
- If you hired the lawyer to represent you in a specific court case, please include the case number(s) and the name of the court where it was filed.
- If you have received an Order of Restitution from the State Bar of Arizona or the Arizona Supreme Court in a discipline matter against an attorney, that Order is binding only on that particular attorney. When reviewing your claim, the Board of Trustees will take into consideration the fact that the attorney was ordered to pay you restitution, however, pursuant to Rule 12(C) of the Fund's Declaration of Trust, they are not bound by restitution orders when deciding a claim.
- 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 business entity, unless the Trustees invoke their sole and absolute discretion. 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).
- 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.
- Claims based upon negligence, incompetence, or malpractice by a lawyer.
- Claims based upon disputes about fees charged in cases where the lawyer did perform some work for the claimant.
- Money given to a lawyer for investment or any other purpose that did not arise from a lawyer-client relationship.
- Claims requesting compensation for interest, legal fees paid to other lawyers, damages, or other expenses.
- Claims where the lawyer was not a member in good standing with the State Bar of Arizona at the time of the dishonest conduct.
The Fund Administrator will review your claim. If additional information is needed, the Administrator will request specific information from you in writing. When all of the necessary documentation is submitted, the Administrator will determine if the claim is eligible for consideration, using the criteria listed above.
- If the Administrator determines that the claim is not eligible for consideration, the claimant will receive written notice advising why the claim does not meet the standards for consideration. The claimant is given 30 days to request reconsideration of this denial. If the claimant submits a Request for Reconsideration, the claim will be forwarded to the Board of Trustees for consideration at their next quarterly meeting. If the Trustees deny the claim, the claimant will be notified in writing. This decision is final and there is no further appeal process.
- If the Administrator determines that the claim is eligible for consideration, the claim will be sent to the Board of Trustees. A copy of the claim will also be sent to the lawyer, who is allowed 30 days to respond. If a response is received from the lawyer, copies of the response will be sent to the Trustees and the claimant. The claim will then be scheduled for consideration at the next quarterly meeting.
- If the Trustees approve the claim and the lawyer has been in one of the following categories for a period of six months: (1) deceased, (2) disbarred, (3) transferred to disability inactive status, (4) suspended by the Supreme Court, (5) placed on interim suspension by the Supreme Court, or (6) convicted of a felony arising out of the facts of the claim, then a check will be issued and sent to the claimant.
- If a claim has been approved, but is not yet eligible for payment, payment will not be made until six months following one of the above triggering events.
- If the Trustees deny the claim, the claimant will be notified in writing as to why the claim was denied and afforded an opportunity to request reconsideration. If the claimant submits a Request for Reconsideration, it will be forwarded to the Trustees for consideration at their next quarterly meeting. If the Trustees deny the request, the claimant will be notified in writing. This decision is final and there is no further appeal process.
The consideration of a claim may take six to eight months due to the claim eligibility requirements and the investigative process.
Claimants must attempt to exhaust all possible remedies against any reasonable source of possible recovery from the attorney prior to filing a Client Protection Fund claim. If your attorney is deceased, it may be possible for you to make a claim against the attorney's estate.
Please contact the Clerk of the Superior Court in your county to obtain the forms and information you need to make a "Claim Against An Estate" (click here for a list of AZ courts). Not making a claim against the attorney's estate will not automatically disqualify your Client Protection Fund claim, however, the Trustees of the Fund prefer claimants attempt to recover their loss from any other reasonable sources before filing a claim with the Fund.
If you have attempted to file a claim against the attorney's estate and were not successful, please include copies of that documentation when you submit your Client Protection Fund claim.
The Fund is administered by a Board of Trustees. There are five Trustees-four lawyers and one layperson-who are appointed by the State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors. The Trustees are volunteers who serve without compensation. The Trustees may serve two five-year terms. All lawyer Trustees must have practiced law in Arizona for at least ten years. In addition, staff from the State Bar of Arizona assists the Trustees in the administration of claims. The Trustees evaluate claims, determine if they are eligible for payment, and compensate eligible claimants.
- The Client Protection Fund is a separate entity from the State Bar of Arizona. Claimants should contact the Attorney Consumer Assistance Program ("A/CAP") at 602.340.7280 to obtain more information regarding filing disciplinary complaints against lawyers.
- Persons involved in a fee dispute with a lawyer may contact the Fee Arbitration Program at 602. 340.7379.
- If your lawyer is deceased, 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 there has been a probate matter filed in the lawyer's name. The Clerk's office can also 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, however, the Trustees of the Fund prefer claimants attempt to recover their loss from any other reasonable sources before filing a claim with the Fund.
- Claimants may also contact the 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.
- To find a lawyer and determine whether he or she is in good standing, go to www.azbar.org and click on "Find a Lawyer."
- Maricopa County Superior Court Self-Service Center 602.506.7353.
The State Bar of Arizona has no legal responsibility for the acts of individual lawyers. Payments from the Client Protection Fund shall be made in the sole discretion of the Trustees administering the Fund and not as a matter of right.
The lawyer must meet the above-listed criteria before a claim is eligible for consideration by the Client Protection Fund.