Opinion #30. Depositing Client's Funds in Out-of-State Bank

Issued by the Professional Ethics Commission

Date Issued: February 4, 1982

Question

A Maine lawyer whose law office is located in a Maine town on the Maine‑New Hampshire border has inquired if he may maintain his client account in a New Hampshire bank instead of in a Maine bank. The New Hampshire bank is located “across the river” approximately 3/10 of a mile from his law office, while the nearest banking institution in Maine is located at a distance of some four or five miles from the lawyer’s office. The funds which pass through the lawyer’s client account are mainly derived from collection cases in which the lawyer represents as clients both New Hampshire and Maine creditors. In addition several debtors who make monthly payments to his office reside in either Maine or New Hampshire.

The lawyer asserts that it would not only be “awfully cumbersome,” but would also cause “great inconvenience to my clients” in the event that he were required to maintain his client account in a Maine banking institution located several miles from his office.

Opinion

While recognizing that Rule 3.6(f)(1) may cause some inconvenience in a situation such as that presented by this inquiry, the Commission concludes that Rule 3.6(f)(1) requires the lawyer to deposit his client account funds in one or more bank accounts maintained in the state of Maine. Rule 3.6(f)(1) in relevant part, provides:

All funds of clients paid to a lawyer or law firm, other than retainers and advances for costs and expenses, shall be deposited in one or more identifiable bank accounts maintained in the state in which the law office is situated, and no funds belonging to the lawyer or law firm shall be deposited therein except as follows:

(i) Funds reasonably sufficient to pay bank charges may be deposited therein; and

(ii) Funds belonging in part to a client and in part presently or potentially to the lawyer or law firm must be deposited therein, but the portion belonging to the lawyer or law firm may be withdrawn when due unless the right of the lawyer or law firm to receive it is disputed by the client; in that event the disputed portion shall not be withdrawn until the dispute is finally resolved.

This Rule contains no exception to its requirement that clients’ funds paid to a lawyer be deposited in one or more bank accounts maintained in the state in which the lawyer’s law office is situated. Because the lawyer’s office is located in Maine, the Rule requires that he maintain his client account in a bank account in the state of Maine.


Enduring Ethics Opinion