Sounds simple enough, right? Oh how wrong you are. Here’s the problem: Most banks know about accounts, but they don’t know about your Ethical Rules as an attorney. Your bank may have no idea that they are not permitted to attach fees to your IOLTA account. That puts a lot of pressure on you to know those rules backwards and forwards.
OR you could go to M&T Bank the only bank that not only knows the rules, but also has developed free (yes you read that right, free) IOLTA management software called NOTA (latin for mark or sign, since the software allows you to actually make client notations next to each transaction).
Mismanagement of client funds, even unintentionally, is a common basis for attorney disciplinary action and disbarment. Don’t let that be you!
Firm efficiency is important. Every hour expended that is non-billable cost you money. Clients also will not pay for tasks that take you longer than appropriate due to learning curve. It is important to establish mentors that you trust, in new areas of law, so that you can establish a library of sample documents, and important cases. When you are ready to deduct hours from a client retainer, M&T Bank customers have a leg up, because NOTA tracks retainers for each individual client, and makes note of any outstanding check on the IOLTA account.
Accusations of fee gauging, over charging, or bill padding are common bases for client grievances. Know your practice areas, have resources for new practice areas, and be honest and fair about the hours you bill.
Trust is paramount in the attorney-client relationship. The duty of loyalty to one’s client exists even after death. Safeguarding client secrets, and in some cases purchases, acquisitions, or other exchange of funds is extremely important. Failure to do so is a fast-track to a grievance.
Minimize information leaks by providing client file and fund access on a need-to-know basis only. Your office staff need not know the specifics of a client’s case to handle case calendaring. Nor should any unnecessary members of the staff have access to client accounts.
NOTA provides M&T bank customers with the ability to limit parties with administrative access on accounts, tracks actions taken with that access to help identify errors and to audit when they occurred and under whose access. Treating the entirety of your clients’ files and information all with the same level of safety and safeguards will ensure you don’t run afoul of this important ethical rule.
Regardless of your area of legal practice, having the best resources available to help you is always key. If you think NOTA may be a resource that could help your practice, set up a quick, free, demo to see if NOTA is right for you! Click Here