Bar Rules

RULE 1.15(II) SAFEKEEPING PROPERTY- TRUST ACCOUNT AND IOLTA

Ethics & Discipline / Current Rules / Part IV (After January 1 / 2001) - Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct (also includes Disciplinary Proceedings and Advisory Opinion rules) / CHAPTER 1 GEORGIA RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT AND ENFORCEMENT THEREOF

  1. Every lawyer who practices law in Georgia, whether said lawyer practices as a sole practitioner, or as a member of a firm, association, or professional corporation, and who receives money or property on behalf of a client or in any other fiduciary capacity, shall maintain or have available a trust account as required by these Rules. All funds held by a lawyer for a client and all funds held by a lawyer in any other fiduciary capacity shall be deposited in and administered from such account.
  2. No personal funds shall ever be deposited in a lawyer's trust account, except that unearned attorney's fees may be so held until the same are earned. Sufficient personal funds of the lawyer may be kept in the trust account to cover maintenance fees such as service charges on the account. Records on such trust accounts shall be so kept and maintained as to reflect at all times the exact balance held for each client or third person. No funds shall be withdrawn from such trust accounts for the personal use of the lawyer maintaining the account except earned attorney's fees debited against the account of a specific client and recorded as such.
  3. All client's funds shall be placed in either an interest-bearing account with the interest being paid to the client or an interest-bearing (IOLTA) account with the interest being paid to the Georgia Bar Foundation as hereinafter provided.
    1. With respect to funds which are not nominal in amount, or are not to be held for a short period of time, a lawyer shall, with notice to the clients, create and maintain an interest-bearing trust account in an approved institution as defined in Rule 1.15(III)(c)(1), with the interest to be paid to the client. No earnings from such an account shall be made available to a lawyer or law firm.
    2. With respect to funds which are nominal in amount or are to be held for a short period of time, a lawyer shall, with or without notice to the client, create and maintain an interest-bearing, government insured trust account (IOLTA) in compliance with the following provisions:
      1. No earnings from such an IOLTA account shall be made available to a lawyer or law firm.
      2. The account shall include all clients' funds which are nominal in amount or which are to be held for a short period of time.
      3. An interest-bearing trust account may be established with any approved institution as defined in Rule 1.15(III)(c)(1). Funds in each interest-bearing trust account shall be subject to withdrawal upon request and without delay.
      4. The rate of interest payable on any interest-bearing trust account shall not be less than the rate paid by the depositor institution to regular, non-lawyer depositors. Higher rates offered by the institution to customers whose deposits exceed certain time or quantity minimum, such as those offered in the form of certificates of deposit, may be obtained by a lawyer or law firm on some or all of the deposit funds so long as there is no impairment of the right to withdraw or transfer principal immediately.
      5. Lawyers or law firms shall direct the depository institution:
        1. to remit to the Georgia Bar Foundation interest or dividends, net of any charges or fees on that account, on the average monthly balance in that account, or as otherwise computed in accordance with a financial institution's standard accounting practice, at least quarterly. Any bank fees or charges in excess of the interest earned on that account for any month shall be paid by the lawyer or law firm in whose names such account appears, if required by the bank;
        2. to transmit with each remittance to the Foundation a statement showing the name of the lawyer or law firm for whom the remittance is sent, the rate of interest applied, the average monthly balance against which the interest rate is applied, the service charges or fees applied, and the net interest remittance;
        3. to transmit to the depositing lawyer or law firm at the same time a report showing the amount paid to the Foundation, the rate of interest applied, the average account balance of the period for which the report is made, and such other information provided to non-lawyer customers with similar accounts.
    3. No charge of ethical impropriety or other breach of professional conduct shall attend the determination that such funds are nominal in amount or to be held for a short period of time, or to the decision to invest clients' funds in a pooled interest-bearing account.
    4. Whether the funds are designated short-term or nominal or not, a lawyer or law firm may elect to remit all interest earned, or interest earned net of charges, to the client or clients.

The maximum penalty for a violation of Rule 1.15(II)(a) and Rule 1.15(II)(b) is disbarment. The maximum penalty for a violation of Rule 1.15(II)(c) is a public reprimand.

Comment

[1] The personal money permitted to be kept in the lawyer's trust account by this Rule shall not be used for any purpose other than to cover the bank fees and if used for any other purpose the lawyer shall have violated this Rule. If the lawyer wishes to reduce the amount of personal money in the trust account, the change must be properly noted in the lawyer's financial records and the monies transferred to the lawyer's business account.

[2] Nothing in this Rule shall prohibit a lawyer from removing from the trust account fees which have been earned on a regular basis which coincides with the lawyer's billing cycles rather than removing the fees earned on an hour-by-hour basis.



GO TO RULE 1.15(I) SAFEKEEPING PROPERTY - GENERAL
GO TO RULE 1.15(III) RECORD KEEPING; TRUST ACCOUNT OVERDRAFT NOTIFICATION; EXAMINATION OF RECORDS
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