OPINION 245
November 1961

COMMINGLINING OF A CLIENT'S FUNDS IN A MEMBER’S GENERAL ACCOUNT- It is a strict compliance with the Canons of Ethics and the better and recommended practice that any check or money which is received by a member and in which his client has an interest be deposited in a trust account and disbursements made therefrom.

Canon 10.

Question

As a record for his general account, a member keeps ledger sheets which indicate the amount of any check which is not fee and the amount which belongs to a client or someone else. Additionally, the member has a trust account in which are kept all funds which belong to clients and which are being held for any period of time.

It is difficult and requires considerable extra bookkeeping to run through the trust account all checks or monies in which someone else has an interest; and a good many of the checks which are deposited in the general account are done so on an "in and out" proposition in that the client's portion of the check is issued to him immediately.

Under these circumstances, i.e., when adequate records are maintained as to the amount of a client's funds and when these funds are to be disbursed to the client promptly, is it a violation of the Canons of Ethics for a member to deposit a client's funds to the member's general account rather than in a trust fund?

Opinion

The Committee is of the opinion that the prohibition of Canon 10 is against commingling the client's funds and the lawyer’s funds, and any deposit of a client’s money in the member's general account would constitute a commingling.

Further, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York has consistently held under ABA Canon 11 (Texas Canon IC is in the form in which this ABA Canon was originally written) that funds of a client should never be commingled in an attorney's own bank account. See ABA Opinions Nos. 66 (1926), 296 (1933) and 676 (1945), which opinions are collected in Opinions on Professional Ethics (Cromwell Foundation Edition, 1956).

However, the Committee, as a practical matter, cannot see any serious objection to handling through the general account, rather than the trust account, funds belonging to a client when receipt and disbursement are made in a single business day, and would hesitate to hold that a lawyer is violating the minimum requirements of the Bar so as to be subject to discipline for depositing a client's funds to the member's general account rather than a trust account when adequate records are maintained and when such funds are disbursed promptly to the client. On the other hand, it is felt that this is one of the areas in which a lawyer should lean over backward toward strict propriety and that the additional bookkeeping is merely one of the burdens of the profession. (9-0.)