Supreme Court Broadens Scope of Rule Protecting Clients

August 30, 2013

A fund that all Tennessee attorneys financially support will now offer even more protection to those clients that may have suffered a financial loss as a result of the dishonest acts of any member of the profession.

“This fund is now supported entirely by Tennessee lawyers –all willing to take responsibility for the actions of the unscrupulous few,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade. “Fortunately, the number of claims has been few over the years and, in consequence, the fund has grown substantially.”

The Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection was established more than three decades ago under Supreme Court Rule 25 to reimburse clients for financial losses caused by acts of conversion or theft during the attorney-client relationship. It is supported exclusively by annual fees paid by each licensed Tennessee attorney.

Based on the solid financial standing of the fund, Executive Director Judy Bond-McKissack and the fund’s governing board recommended changes in the rule designed to afford greater protections to the general public. The Supreme Court endorsed their proposal.

“The protection of client interests is an essential element in any system of lawyer regulation,” the Court order states.

The revision to the rule extends the definition of “lawyer” to include all attorneys who practice in Tennessee, regardless of the state granting licensure. Previously, the rule addressed only those attorneys licensed by the State of Tennessee.

Another significant change is to extend from one to three years the amount of time for a client to make a claim for reimbursement. The fund’s governing board pointed out that the small number of valid claims against individuals within the profession has made this extension possible.

The amendments, which are the first changes to the rule since 2009, will go into effect on October 1, 2013. Board members of the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection are appointed by the Supreme Court and serve without compensation.

Read the text of the new Supreme Court Rule 25 here.