Informal Opinion Number: 2014-05

Rules: 4-1.15
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Trust Accounts and Property of Others
Subject: Trust Accounts and Safekeeping Property
Summary: credit cards and trust accounts


Reference Note:  Effective January 1, 2019, Rule 4-1.15(c) was repealed and a new 4-1.15(c) was adopted.  Effective January 1, 2019, Comments [5] and [6] to 4-1.15 were repealed, and new Comments [5], [6], and [20] were adopted.  This opinion is based on Rule 4-1.15 in effect prior to that date.

Reference Note: Effective July 1, 2016, subdivision 4-1.15(f) of Rule 4 was repealed and a new subdivision 4-1.15(f) adopted in lieu thereof. This opinion is based on Rule 4-1.15 in effect prior to that date.

Attorney accepts credit card payments for legal services.
Question 1: If a credit card processing company will allow deposits and debits out of only one account, is it ethically permissible to allow credit card payments of advanced funds for fees and expenses to be deposited into the operating account and immediately transferred into the trust account?
Answer 1: No. Pursuant to Rule 4-1.15(a) and (c), a client’s advance payment of fees and expenses must be deposited in the trust account, and those funds may not be held, even temporarily, in Attorney’s operating account. Funds should be withdrawn promptly from the trust account as fees are earned or expenses incurred, pursuant to Rule 4-1.15(c) and Formal Opinion 128.
Question 2: Is it permissible for Attorney to allow the credit card company to take debits from Attorney’s operating account only and make deposits in either Attorney’s trust account or operating account, as designated by Attorney as either earned fees or advance payment of fees and expenses?
Answer 2: Yes. This method complies with Rule 4-1.15(a) and (c). And in accordance with Rule 4-1.15(a)(3), it is not permissible for chargebacks to come from the trust account.
Question 3: Is it permissible for Attorney to place all deposits from a credit card transaction into the trust account but take all debits from the operating account?
Answer 3: Yes, this method complies with Rule 4-1.15, provided Attorney removes from the trust account any funds that represent earned fees within a reasonably prompt period of time.

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

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