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Ten Commandments of Trust

7: Check Your Checks

There are two critical times to check your checks: Before you send them out and after they come back.

In the hectic environment of a law firm, we may accidentally grab the wrong checkbook, paying firm expenses with a trust check or attempting to disburse trust proceeds with a check drawn on our business account instead. We may also confuse these two accounts when depositing funds. These errors may overdraw our IOLTA accounts, get reported to Bar Counsel and prompt further investigation.

One way to detect these mistakes is through monthly account reconciliations. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep your checkbooks in different locations within your office. Print your trust checks in a different color and style from checks designed for your business account. And, while this isn't always practical, it would probably be a good idea to use separate banks for each account. Anything that makes it harder to confuse these accounts will reduce errors and inadvertent infractions.

Later on, when your bank sends you copies of cancelled checks, you must exercise similar vigilance in checking your checks:

Is that really your signature? 

Were they properly endorsed?

Are there checks paid to persons or entities you don't recognize?

Are the checks in sequence?

Were any of these checks made out to "cash"?

Does anything else seem suspicious?

This is an essential way to protect yourself and your clients from fraudulent transactions and other serious problems.

Check Your Canceled Trust Checks to Prevent Fraud
Attorney Grievance defense attorney specializes in defending lawyers in disciplinary proceedings before the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission and the D.C. Bar's Board on Professional Responsibility involving professional misconduct, legal ethics, disbarment, suspensions of law licenses, petitions for disciplinary action, reprimands and sanctions for unethical conduct. If you receive a letter from Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless, Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox, or from any attorney disciplinary board in Maryland or the District of Columbia, retain experienced attorneys with expertise in lawyer discipline and breach of ethics cases to avoid sanctions for professional misconduct. We help lawyers avoid disbarment, suspension, reprimands, censure and informal admonitions by drafting responses to client grievances and ethical complaints; representing lawyers in peer reviews, evidentiary hearings, and oral arguments before the BPR and the Court of Appeals; filing petitions to reinstate an attorney's license to practice law; conducting law firm ethical compliance audits; and drafting legal ethics opinions to protect lawyers from ethics charges. In many cases, disciplinary proceedings may be dismissed, dismissed with a warning, or result in a conditional diversion agreement with Bar Counsel to rectify misconduct. Lawyers may need help in managing their law firm attorney escrow IOLTA trust account and complying with attorney trust accounting rules to avoid charges of ethical misconduct. Do not represent yourself in responding to an attorney grievance, law firm client complaint, or other allegation of ethical impropriety. Attorney grievance defense counsel may help you comply with legal ethics rules, avoid sanctions like suspension or disbarment, and avoid future attorney grievances.


By The Lawyer's Lawyers | Kramer & Connolly and Irwin R. Kramer who are responsible for the content of this informational website.   This website is designed for lawyers faced with attorney grievances. As cases do differ, past performance does not guarantee future results.