For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 4 - 24

Ellen C. Brotman

Risky Business:

Fee Agreements, Bank Accounts and Record Keeping
Requirements Under the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional
Conduct or...What You Don't Know Will Hurt You

S

leepless nights are a criminal defense attorney's
lot in life, full of worry about all the things
that can and do go wrong in the high stakes
work of protecting individual liberty. But there is
one more thing you should be worried about: your
office's compliance with the Pennsylvania Rules
of Professional Conduct and Rules of Disciplinary
Enforcement that apply to fees, fee agreements and
banking.
If you are like most criminal defense lawyers, you
often charge a flat fee for services and deposit that
fee directly into an operating account. This conduct
may violate Rule 1.15 of the Pennsylvania Rules of
Professional Conduct and expose you to disciplinary
sanctions if certain procedures relating to the
handling of money and fee agreements are not in

24

For The Defense

l

Vol. 4, Issue 4

place. This article provides an overview of both Rule
1.15, the Rule of Safekeeping Property, and Rule 1.5,
the Rule governing Fees and provides a few easy
steps to maintaining fiscal and professional health.

Rule 1.5(b) and Rule 1.15(i): Magic
Words for Fees and Fee Agreements
The primary function of the disciplinary system
is "not to punish but rather to protect the public
and uphold the integrity of the profession."
Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Clayton William
Boulware, No. 97 DB 2011 (D.Bd. Opinion 2013).
Both these interests are implicated in an attorney's
management of the attorney-client relationship and
OPM - other people's money. The first step is the


http://www.D.Bd

For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 4

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 4

Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 4 - 1
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 4 - 2
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 4 - Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 4 - 4
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 4 - 5
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 4 - 6
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