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Model Rules for Lawyers' Funds for Client Protection - Rule 16

Rule 16 - Resitution and Subrogation

  1. A lawyer whose dishonest conduct results in reimbursement to a claimant shall be liable to the Fund for restitution; and the Board may bring such action as it deems advisable to enforce such obligation.
  2. A lawyer whose dishonest conduct has resulted in reimbursement to a claimant shall make restitution to the Fund including interest and the expense incurred by the Fund in processing the claim. A lawyer’s failure to make satisfactory arrangement for restitution shall be cause for suspension, disbarment, or denial of an application for reinstatement.
  3. As a condition of reimbursement, and to the extent of the reimbursement provided by the Fund, a claimant shall be required to provide the Fund with a transfer of the claimant's rights against the lawyer, the lawyer's legal representative, estate or assigns; and of the claimant's rights against any third party or entity who may be liable for the claimant's loss.
  4. Upon commencement of an action by the Board as subrogee or assignee of a claim, it shall advise the claimant, who may then join in such action to recover the claimant's unreimbursed losses.
  5. In the event that the claimant commences an action to recover unreimbursed losses against the lawyer or another entity that may be liable for the claimant's loss, the claimant shall be required to notify the Board of such action.
  6. The claimant shall be required to agree to cooperate in all efforts that the Board undertakes to achieve restitution for the Fund, and to repay the Fund if claimant is subsequently reimbursed from another source an amount that exceeds the difference between the principal misappropriated and the Fund award. Such repayment shall not exceed the amount of the Fund award.


As fiduciaries of the Fund, the Board has the obligation to seek restitution, in appropriate cases, for reimbursement paid to claimants. Successful restitution efforts can enlarge the Fund’s financial capacity to provide reimbursement to eligible claimants, and also reduce the need to increase assessments on lawyers to finance the operations of the Fund.

The Board may seek restitution by direct legal action against the lawyer, as well as by the enforcement of rights provided by subrogation and assignment against the lawyer, the lawyer's estate, or any other person or entity who may be liable for the claimant's loss.

Paragraph A is a statement of the Fund’s right to seek restitution from the lawyer whose dishonest conduct resulted in a payment of reimbursement. Paragraph A creates an obligation on the dishonest lawyer to reimburse the Fund for all payments made by the Fund to the lawyer's clients. Under Paragraph B, the making of restitution to the Fund by the dishonest lawyer is a condition precedent to the lawyer’s continued practice of law.

Paragraph C requires the Board to establish a subrogation policy that requires claimants who receive reimbursement from the Fund to contractually transfer to the Fund their rights against the lawyer and any other person or entity that may be liable for the loss which the Fund reimbursed. This ordinary transfer of rights by subrogation is to extent of the reimbursement provided by the Fund.

Paragraphs D and E provide for appropriate notice and joinder of parties in subrogation actions by the Fund, or by a claimant, where the claimant has received less than full reimbursement from the Fund.

Paragraph F requires a claimant agree to cooperate with the Fund in its efforts to secure restitution.

The provisions of Paragraphs C, D, E, and F will ordinarily be incorporated in the Fund’s subrogation agreement with the claimant.

Subrogation agreements should be carefully drawn to maximize the Board’s creditor rights. In appropriate cases, subrogation should be supplemented with a full or partial assignment of specific rights possessed by a claimant, such as a payee's rights as a party to a negotiable instrument, or as a judgment creditor.

The Board should seek the enactment of local law, if necessary, to enhance the Fund’s creditors rights. One example is a statutory grant of subrogation rights once the Fund reimburses a claimant's loss. A statutory right of subrogation can effectively supplement contractual subrogation, and may eliminate the need for individual agreements.

Another enhancement that local law might provide a Fund is an automatic lien upon payment of restitution. The lien can serve a two-fold purpose: enabling the Board to intercept restitution which the lawyer is obligated to pay a claimant and preventing claimants from receiving double payments for their losses.

Although most collection efforts directly against the lawyer will not be immediately successful as a practical matter, it is important that the Fund acquire the claimant's rights when it pays reimbursement. A transfer of rights has the potential for a later recoupment of restitution, and to prevent a claimant's double recovery for the same loss.

Lawyer disciplinary agencies, increasingly require lawyers to make restitution to Funds, or to clients, as a condition of discipline or for reinstatement to practice. See, ABA Model Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement (1999).

The Board, through the exercise of subrogation and assignments rights, can also recover restitution from collateral sources, including law partners.


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