NUMBER 384 1949
Question. I represented A in a matter which was concluded in August, 1948. My fee for services rendered in that matter was agreed upon in the amount of $750, but to date no part of this has been paid.
I also represent A in an entirely different matter which involves the collection by me of moneys due A at the rate of $100 monthly. The checks for these monthly payments have been mailed to me, and are payable to my order as attorney. Up to now, it has been my practice to endorse these checks as they are received and forward them to my client, A.
In view of the fact I have received no part of my fee of $750 involved in the first matter, which has absolutely nothing to do with the second matter on which the $100 checks are received, and for which I have been paid my fee, my query is this. Would it be proper for me, instead of transmitting these checks to my client, to retain the same and apply the proceeds against my $750 bill?
Answer. Assuming that there is no dispute between the lawyer and the client with respect to the indebtedness of $750 owing from the client to the lawyer; the lawyer may, in the opinion of the Committee, properly withhold the monthly collections and apply them on account of the unpaid fee, until such time as the fee is paid.
If, however, there is any question as between the lawyer and the client as to the amount and propriety of the $750 charge, the moneys should not be mingled by the lawyer with his own funds, but should be held in a special account, so that the lawyer will at all times be in a position to account and pay over should the amount or legality of the fees be contested. (See Opinions 7, and 66.)