Behind The Scenes
When Shaquina Justice met he attorney hired to handle her husband’s appeal, she had already been fighting for
nearly four years to clear her husband of
criminal charges that resulted in a first-degree assault conviction for his role
in a South Seattle shootout. At trial, her
husband claimed self-defense, but the
jury didn’t buy it. It didn’t take long, after
hiring the attorney to mount an appeal,
for her to realize that was a mistake.
“He wasn’t showing up in court,”
she recently said of her experience. “I
paid him $11,000 and he did next to
nothing. I couldn’t even reach him on
Two years later, Justice finally got
a bit of good news in the form of a
$10,500 check from the Washington
State Bar Association's (WSBA) Client
Protection Fund (CPF). Hers was the
largest award among the nine former
clients of this attorney who applied for
relief from the Fund.
“I really appreciate the fund,” Justice
said. “I’m not sure how I could recover
the money lost any other way.”
Her difficult experience with that
attorney wasn’t unique. In all, the
CPF awarded $31,019 to seven of the
attorney’s former clients.
The attorney resigned in lieu of
discipline, which means he can never
apply for readmission to practice law
in Washington. “The one thing that
bothered me was that he might be able
to go and practice somewhere else, in
another state,” Justice said.
Until recently, the CPF was known as
the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection
(LFCP). The name change occurred
in 2017 in response to the inclusion of
Limited Practice Officers (LPOs) and
Limited License Legal Technicians
(LLLTs) as members of the Bar.
Established by the Washington Supreme
Court in 1994, the LFCP Board replaced
the WSBA Indemnity Fund, which had
been in place since 1960. The state
Supreme Court approved the change at
the request of WSBA with the adoption
of Rule 15 of the Admission and Practice
Rules. Lawyers and LLLTs contribute to
the Fund with an annually assessed fee in
addition to their license fee. Currently, the
annual assessment is $30.
So why should Bar members be
required to contribute to the CPF?
Unlike doctors, accountants, or
architects, legal practitioners are members
of a uniquely self-regulating profession.
The Washington Supreme Court regulates
the legal professions in Washington, and
WSBA, through authority delegated to
it by the Court, administers admission,
licensing, and discipline.
Eligibility to receive a gift from the
CPF focuses on intent: did the legal
professional dishonestly mishandle a
client’s money? Applicants must show
by a preponderance of the evidence that
they lost money or property due to the
dishonest acts of a Washington lawyer or
LLLT. Examples of dishonest acts include
theft or embezzlement, conversion, or
refusal to return unearned fees. The Fund
can also make gifts to applicants when
payments are not returned due to the
WSBA member’s death, disappearance,
or inability to practice. Applicants are
required to show that no other form of
compensation is available through the
legal system, bond, or insurance. Clients
receiving gifts are required to return them
to the Fund if they are reimbursed from
any other source.
“It has to be a dishonest action,” said
Brenda Jackson, the CPF analyst who
deals directly with applicants. Gifts may
be awarded only to compensate clients for
the amount of money a legal professional
purposefully took or mishandled. They
cannot be awarded in cases of malpractice
or fee disputes. “Malpractice can be
negligent rather than dishonest,” she said.
As trustees of the Fund, WSBA’s Board
of Governors appoints 11 WSBA members
and two community representatives to
serve on the Client Protection Board.
The Client Protection Board reviews
applications for monetary gifts from the
Fund and can award gifts of up to $25,000
per application. Larger gifts must be
approved by the Board of Governors as
trustees of the Fund. The maximum gift
amount is $150,000, with no limit on the
aggregate amount paid on multiple claims
against a single legal practitioner.
That $30 Annual
By Noel S. Brady "We're often dealing with people who are spending their last dime or borrowing money from family members to pay
for legal representation."
– Brenda Jackson
Brenda Jackson, CPF analyst