FAQ

A friend of mine said the lawyer I hired should have gotten me more money. Will the Fund make up the difference?

No, The Fund will not reimburse you because you are dissatisfied with the performance of your lawyer. The fund can only reimburse for an illegal act.

Are there limits on the amount of money that can be reimbursed?
  • No more than $100,000 can be paid to a single claimant.
  • No more than $250,000 can be paid for all losses cause by a single attorney.
  • No more than $250,000 can be paid based on a single transaction.
  • If there are multiple claims against a single lawyer that exceed the maximum amount the Fund can pay out , the Fund may pay each claimant only a percentage of their actual loss.
  • Reimbursements cannot be more than your proven loss.
Are there other factors that can affect reimbursement?

If you are asking for reimbursement of more than $1,000 the Fund may require you to obtain a judgment against the offending lawyer or former lawyer. You may be eligible for payment from the Fund if the judgment remains unpaid after you have made reasonable efforts to collect the judgment.

Can I check the status of my claim?

Yes, contact the Fund at Tennessee Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection,

10 Cadillac Drive, Suite 220

Brentwood, TN 37027

 (615) 741-3097

 

Can I file a claim with the Lawyers’ Fund for a relative of mine?

If the relative is unable to file a claim due to age, mental or physical incapacity and you have been given the authority to represent them, then you can file a claim on their behalf.

Can I obtain reimbursement if my lawyer’s acts were malpractice?

No, The Fund does not act as a malpractice insurer.  The Fund can only reimburse you for a theft of your money or property while in an attorney-client relationship. Some attorneys carry malpractice insurance that may be available to cover your loss.  Ineligible claims will be dismissed and the claimant will be notified of the reason.

Can my claim be dismissed without payment/reimbursement?

Yes, you have a duty to provide relevant information and evidence to the Fund to support your claim.  Failure to co-operate can be a basis for dismissal of your claim.

Do I have a right to payment from the Fund?

No person has any right to payment from the Fund. (Rule 25, Section 15.01)

Do I need a lawyer to file a claim?

No, you do not need a lawyer to file a claim.  The claim form is available on this website. Complete the form as completely as possible and add additional pages if needed to explain your loss and to support your claim. The claim form must be notarized. Mail your completed notarized claim form to the address shown at the top of the claim form. Incomplete forms will be returned.

Does the Fund automatically refund losses?

No, The Fund will only consider repayment if there are not other sources of funds to repay your loss. The Fund is a remedy of last resort.

How is the Tennessee Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection funded?

The Fund is financed exclusively by the lawyers licensed to practice in Tennessee. Annual payments from lawyers in an amount set by the Court in Rule 9, Section 10.2(c) are collected annually with the yearly registration fees by the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee and transferred to the Fund.

How often does the Board meet?

The Board meets every quarter to consider claims.  The Board will not take any action on a claim until the Board of Professional Responsibility has completed their investigation and made a finding. You must file a complaint with the Board of Professional Responsibility as the first step toward any possible reimbursement from the Fund.

How will I know if I’m eligible for reimbursement?

This is what we look for to determine if a claim is eligible for reimbursement:

  • The claim must be based on dishonest conduct of an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Tennessee at the time that the dishonest act occurred.
  • The lawyer must have committed a theft of your money or property.
  • There must have been an attorney-client relationship between you and the attorney at the time the dishonest conduct occurred.
  • If your loss occurred before October 1, 2013 your claim must be filed with the Fund no later than one (1) year after the date your loss occurred or within one year of the date you should have reasonably discovered the loss.
  • If your loss occurred on or after October 1, 2013, your claim must be filed no later than three (3) years after the date that the loss occurred or should have reasonably been discovered, but in no event will the Fund consider a claim for a loss that occurred more than five (5) years from the date of the loss.
  • You must file a complaint with the Board of Professional Responsibility to allow an investigation of the facts surrounding the claim. If you have not filed a complaint you will be referred to the Board of Professional Responsibility to allow an investigation of your claim before any action is taken.
I did not keep a copy of my agreement with the lawyer or the payments I paid to him in cash. Is that a problem?

You must prove your loss.  Without any documentation proving your loss the Fund cannot make a reimbursement.

I met a person who said they worked for a lawyer and could help me with some legal issues I have. I paid them some money and they didn’t do anything. Can I get my money back from the Lawyers’ Fund?

No. If they were not a lawyer, then you will not be able to recover from the Lawyers’ Fund.

I met with my lawyer a couple times and the lawyer filed suit or filed a claim in front of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) but didn’t complete my case. Can I recover the money I paid the lawyer?

Probably not. If the lawyer worked on your case and filed a claim or lawsuit for you, then it is not seen as a theft and would not be covered by the Lawyers’ Fund.   The question you need to ask is “Would the police have arrested the lawyer for not finishing your case?” If the answer is no, then you will not be able to recover. It is looked at as a breach of contract or a fee dispute.

I need some advice on what to do. Can the Fund help me?

The Tennessee Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection CAN NOT provide legal advice.

I need to find another lawyer. Can the Fund suggest someone?

The Tennessee Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection CAN NOT make referrals to lawyers.

I’ve already hired a new lawyer. Can he file a claim for me?

Yes, however the lawyer cannot charge you for representing you in filing a claim.

I’ve already provided information to the Board of Professional Responsibility. Do I have to give the same information to the Fund?

Yes.  It is your responsibility to provide relevant information and evidence to the Fund to support your claim. Evidence should include items such as a retainer agreement, cancelled checks (front and back), receipts, invoices indicating payment, contracts or other documents that show dishonest conduct and the resulting loss. Do not send original documents to the Fund – only send copies of your documents. Also, please be aware that the Board of Professional Responsibility will not send your complaint file to the Fund.  Failure to cooperate can be a basis for denial and dismissal of a claim.

If my claim is approved how long will it take to receive reimbursement?

Once the board meets and considers your claim it can take up to six (6) weeks to receive a refund.  Because the Fund operates under the guidelines of the State of Tennessee we must abide by the rules of the state treasurer’s office.

If the Fund denies my claim can I file an appeal?

No, decisions of the Fund are final and are not subject to appeal or to review by any court. (Rule 25, Section 15.02)

Is the information that I provide to the Fund confidential?

Yes, all information that you provide is confidential.

Is there anything that I must do before the Fund will issue reimbursement?

You must sign an agreement which allows the Fund to collect the amount that the Fund has paid you from the attorney that caused your loss.  The Fund will not issue a payment until the agreement has been signed and received by the Fund.

My lawyer overcharged me. Will the Fund get my money back?

No, the Fund does not get involved in fee disputes.

My lawyer settled my case without my knowledge and lied to me about it. He forged my name on the check and kept the money. Will the Lawyers’ Fund, reimburse me for my loss?

If the investigation by the Board of Professional Responsibility results in a finding that this was a theft, then you should be able to recover some and possibly all the the money the lawyer stole from you.

My lawyer told me my case was worth a lot of money and the employer will definitely want to settle. The attorney didn’t do anything. Can I recover all or some of what my case was worth?

No. Possible or even probable outcomes are not recoverable from the Lawyers’ Fund. You may have a malpractice claim against the lawyer, but you will need to consult an attorney regarding this.

The Lawyers’ Fund only paid for a portion or percentage of my claim, can I pursue a claim against the attorney for the balance or have I given up all my rights?

The release you signed giving the Lawyers’ Fund the right to recover what we paid to you, is only limited to what we paid to you.  We do not have a right to collect the full amount of your loss unless you were reimbursed by us for the full amount of your loss.

What losses are NOT eligible for reimbursement from the Fund?
  • Losses based on malpractice,
  • Losses based upon a fee dispute,
  • Losses based on negligence of the claimant,
  • Losses by businesses controlled by the lawyer causing the losses,
  • Losses by a governmental entity or agency,
  • Losses covered by insurance or some other means of reimbursement,
  • undocumented losses,
  • Losses from spouses, children, parents, grandparents, siblings, partners, associates and employees of the lawyer(s) causing the losses,
  • Loans between a client and their attorney,
  • Interest,
  • Costs of attempts to recover your loss,
  • Attorney’s fees or other costs resulting from attempts to recover your loss,
  • The cost of copying, postage, mileage or other costs of filing a claim with the Fund, or
  • Money meant to punish an attorney for wrongdoing.
Where can I find the rules and procedures for the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection?

Supreme Court Rule 25 governs the operation of the Fund. http://www.tncourts.gov/rules/supreme-court/25

Who decides if a claim is eligible?

All claims for reimbursement are screened and reviewed to determine if a claim is eligible for reimbursement.  Not all claims are eligible for reimbursement – e.g. fee disputes, malpractice claims, etc. If your claim is not eligible you will be notified by letter and given the reason that the claim is denied. If the claim appears to meet the requirements of Supreme Court Rule 25, the claim is held pending the results of an investigation of the claim. The Fund relies upon the outcome of investigations conducted by the disciplinary counsel of the Board of Professional Responsibility to help determine the eligibility of claims. Claimants are expected to cooperate with the Board in their investigations. Eligible claims are presented to the Board to determine if a claim merits reimbursement once investigations are completed.

Why was the Fund created?

The Fund was established to promote public confidence in the administration of justice and the integrity of the legal profession as a whole by reimbursing losses caused by the rare instances of dishonest conduct of lawyers practicing in this state.

Will the Fund pay for my pain and suffering?

No, even though you may have experienced pain and suffering as part of your loss, the Fund cannot include that in your reimbursement.