The Massachusetts Clients’ Security Board (CSB) is a panel of attorneys, appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court. They are entrusted with a never ending source of money – a portion of all registered Massachusetts attorneys’ annual fees! all registered Massachusetts attorneys’ annual fees! [CAROLINE START HERE] Unfortunately, the CSB’s job is never ending as well – their job is to distribute funds to victims of attorney dishonest financial conduct. That is, when an attorney steals money that he or she was a fiduciary of, the CSB investigates and pays the client for the loss.
In the CSB annual report, filed on August 31, 2009, the total amount awarded was $1,328,039, a decrease of 50% from their 2008 fiscal year. On the other hand, the total number of claims decided, 116, was up 30% from last year. The largest single award was $243,498.00; the smallest, $365.00.
The good news for Massachusetts lawyers is that the total number of lawyers found responsible was 33; out of a total number of licensed attorneys of 53,071, or 0.06%. Of those 33 lawyers, there were 83 awards made to Massachusetts victims.
The three largest categories of awards were: unearned retainers (client moneys accepted by an attorney who failed to perform the legal service), 42 awards, 50.6% of total awards; personal injury settlements (misappropriation of proceeds), 15 awards, 19.97% of total awards; and, trusts and estates (misappropriation of money by an attorney serving as trustee, executor or counsel to the executor), 8 awards, 9.64% of total awards. Interestingly, of the claims pending, there are roughly the same percentage of potential payouts.
In legal malpractice cases, we often work with the CBS and the Board of Bar Overseers.