Legal Ethics Opinion #1510

Trust Accounts: Deposit of Lawyer's Funds to Pay Trust Account
Bank Charges

You have presented a hypothetical situation in which a lawyer
occasionally does legal work involving the handling of a client's
funds and maintains a special account for that purpose.  The
lawyer prefers to maintain this account rather than open an
account each time and use counter or other nonprofessional-
looking checks, or cashier's checks.  The bank does not require a
minimum balance to maintain the account but imposes a service
charge of $5.00 per month (which may be re-credited every few
months to the account at the discretion of the branch manager). 
The lawyer must maintain his own funds on deposit in the account
most of the time in order to keep it open and to pay the service
charges, at least pending possible re-crediting every few months. 
The bank will close the account if it carries a zero balance for
thirty days. 

You have asked the committee to opine, under the facts of the
inquiry, as to the maximum amount of the lawyer's own funds that
may be kept on deposit in the trust account and/or the amount of
time for which he may provide for monthly service charges.  You
have also asked whether the answer would be different (1) if the
charges are not to be re-credited and (2) if the charges may be,
but not necessarily are, re-credited.

The appropriate and controlling Disciplinary Rule related to your
inquiry is DR 9-102(A)(1), which states that all funds of clients
paid to a lawyer or law firm, other than 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 that funds reasonably sufficient to
pay bank charges may be deposited therein.

The committee believes that the clear language of DR 9-102(A)(2)
provides that an attorney may deposit funds in his trust account
reasonably sufficient to pay bank charges.  The committee is
cognizant of the fact that individual banks may assess different
service charge amounts.  The committee, therefore, declines to
establish a specific maximum amount that may be deposited. 
Rather, the committee is of the opinion that if the amount of an
attorney's own funds which are deposited in his trust account is
an amount reasonably sufficient to pay bank charges for a two-
year period, then there would be no violation of DR 9-l02(A)(l).

The committee is of the view that both variations on your
inquiry, i.e., (1) the charges not to be re-credited, and (2) the
charges possibly, but not necessarily, being credited, are
immaterial to the conclusions reached.

Committee Opinion
February 9, 1993