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Ethics Opinions from the Bar Association of San Francisco

INFORMAL OPINION 1970-3

It is not improper or unethical to deposit clients' funds in a trustee savings account rather than a trustee checking account. The interest on the account would belong to the client and not to the attorney.

QUESTION:
Would it be improper or unethical to deposit clients' funds in a trustee savings account rather than a trustee checking account?

OPINION:

No, but the interest on the account would belong to the client and not to the attorney. In our opinion there is nothing improper or unethical about depositing clients' funds in a trustee savings account rather than a trustee checking account.

Rule 9 of the State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct provides:

A member of the State Bar shall not commingle the money or other property of a client with his own; and he shall promptly report to the client the receipt by him of all money and other property belonging to such client. Unless the client otherwise directs in writing, he shall promptly deposit his clients' funds in a bank or trust company authorized to do business in the State of California, in a bank account separate from his own account and clearly designated as "Clients' Funds Account" or "Trust Funds Account," it or words of similar import.

It is clear that Rule 9 makes no distinction between a trustee savings account and a trustee checking account.

With regard to the interest earned on a trustee savings account, it is our opinion that such interest would belong to the client and not the attorney. As a basic proposition, we do not see how interest earned on funds belonging to a client could in any way inure to the benefit of the attorney.

All opinions of the Committee are subject to the following disclaimer:
Opinions rendered by the Ethics Committee are an uncompensated service of The Bar Association of San Francisco. Opinions are advisory only, and no liability whatsoever is assumed by the Committee or The Bar Association of San Francisco in rendering such opinions, and the opinions are relied upon at the risk of the user thereof. Opinions of the Committee are not binding in any manner upon the State Bar of California, the Board of Governors, any disciplinary committee, The Bar Association of San Francisco, or the individual members of the Ethics Committee.

In using these opinions you should be aware that subsequent judicial opinions and revised rules of professional conduct may have dealt with the areas covered by these ethics opinions.

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