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Client Security Commission 


Client Security Commission 

Judicial Branch Building 

1111 East Court Avenue 

Des Moines, Iowa  50319 

(515) 725-8029  



The Client Security Commission manages a fund generated by contributions from Iowa lawyers and judges, and advises the court on policies involving the administration of the fund.  The purpose of the fund is to prevent defalcations by members of the lowa bar, and insofar as practicable, to provide indemnification by the profession for losses caused to the public by the dishonest conduct of members of the bar of this state.  The fund also separately administers the cost of administering the lawyer disciplinary system and other programs which impact the disciplinary system.  


     - CLE & Client Security reports and fees are due by March 10th  -


Fees Payable with the Annual Client Security Report in 2017 


A fee of $175 for support of the lawyer discipline system will be collected with the client security report during 2017.  In addition, a regular assessment of $50 for the Client Security Trust Fund will be collected during 2017 from all lawyers who previously have paid at least $200 into the fund, which will make the total fees payable with the client security report $225. 


Lawyers who have not previously paid their initial assessment of $200 into the Client Security Trust Fund will pay an installment of $50 toward that initial assessment, regardless of status, which will make the total fees payable with the client security report $225.    


Lawyers in full-time military service and emeritus lawyers remain exempt from the annual fee for support of the disciplinary system and assessments for the Client Security Trust Fund. 


Registered house counsel and foreign legal consultants will pay the $175 fee for support of the disciplinary system, but are not subject to the regular assessment.  


An Iowa lawyer who does NOT in fact practice law in Iowa may apply for a Certificate of Exemption from filing the annual client security report and paying associated fees.  Iowa Court Rule 39.7 should be carefully examined regarding eligibility and reinstatement requirements before applying for exemption.  The application form may be completed from the lawyer's My Account page at, or downloaded here: In Rich Text Format  



Succession Planning by Iowa Attorneys 


On November 18, 2016, the Supreme Court adopted an amended rule regarding death and disability planning by Iowa attorneys.  The amended rule creates two "tiers" of succession planning.  The first tier is a mandatory short form designation of an assisting attorney or entity as part of the annual questionnaire filed with the Client Security Commission.  The second tier is an optional but encouraged written plan that the attorney creates.  The new rule will be effective December 25, 2017, and will apply to the entirety of the 2018 attorney annual report filing season.


A copy of the new rule is available here:  Rule 39.18  


A copy of the related court rule regarding designation of trust account successor signatories is available here: Rule 45.11  


An informational flyer regarding the duty to plan is available here:  Flyer  

An outline regarding succession planning for sole practitioners is available here:  Outline  

A Powerpoint slide set to accompany the outline is available here:  Slide Set  


A succession planning handbook is available here:  Handbook  

Forms from the succession planning handbook are available here in Word format:  Forms  



Reporting by Multijurisdictional Practitioners (MJP) 


Iowa Rule of Professional Conduct 32:5.5 allows lawyers who are admitted in another state to practice before federal agencies in Iowa without being admitted here. However, Iowa Court Rule 39.16 provides that an attorney who establishes an office or other systematic and continuous presence in Iowa for the practice of law under the provisions of rule of professional conduct 32:5.5(d)(2) must file the annual client security statement required by rule 39.8(1) and annual client security questionnaire required by rule 39.11, pay the annual fee and assessment due under rules 39.5 and 39.6, comply with all provisions of chapter 45 pertaining to trust accounts, cooperate with investigations and audits under rule 39.10, and be subject to the provisions of rule 39.12.  The attached memorandum provides additional information and includes the required report form: MJP Memo and Form. 



Registration of House Counsel 


The Iowa Supreme Court adopted rule 31.16 effective July 1, 2005.  Iowa Court Rule 31.16 provides for registration of persons who are not admitted to practice in Iowa, but who are admitted in another jurisdiction in the United States and maintain an office or other systematic and continuous presence in Iowa to practice as house counsel for a corporation or other entity.  A copy of the rule is available at this link:  Rule 31.16  


Persons subject to registration should examine rule 31.16 and prepare the registration packet contemplated by the rule for submission to the Office of Professional Regulation, Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa  50319.  The packet should include the affidavit specified in rule 31.16(2) and the attachments listed in rule 31.16(3).  Applicants also must include in the registration packet the $200 registration fee specified in rule 31.16(3)(a).  The check or money order for this fee should be made payable to "Client Security Commission."    


After the applicant's registration has been approved, he or she will receive an annual report form by personal delivery or mail from the Client Security Commission.  The form must be completed, signed and returned to the Client Security Commission within thirty (30) days of registration to avoid a late filing penalty.  The annual disciplinary fee prescribed by rule 31.16(9) and rule 39.5, which currently is $175.00, will be payable with this report form.  Registered lawyers will receive an annual report form from the Client Security Commission each year thereafter during their maximum five years of registered status, and will be required to timely file the report form and pay the annual disciplinary fee each year.



Recent Changes to Provisions of the Client Security Trust Fund


Changes in court rules were adopted on November 26, 2013 regarding new claim reimbursement limits, assessments, and the sufficiency threshold calculation for the Client Security Trust Fund.  The amended rules: 


1.   Increased the claim reimbursement limits to $100,000 per claim and $300,000 per lawyer. 

2.   Increased the threshold for the annual sufficiency calculation from $600,000 to $900,000.  

3.   Increased the special assessments payable in a special assessment year to $140 (from the existing $100) for lawyers in full-time private practice; and to $70 (from the existing $25) for lawyers in other categories including judges, government lawyers, and corporate lawyers (but not lawyers on full-time military service).    

4.   Made the rate at which the $200 initial assessment for new lawyers is payable uniform, at $50 per year regardless of client security status.     

5.   Adopted a new, uniform annual assessment of $50 per year, payable by all active lawyers (except lawyers on full-time military service) in any year in which a special assessment is not payable.     


A copy of the rule amendments is available here:  Client Security Rule Changes  



Client Security Trust Fund - Claim Procedures and Form

The Client Security Trust Fund was established in 1974 by the Supreme Court of Iowa. The fund exists to reimburse victims of attorney theft or conversion when all other avenues of recovery have been exhausted. It is fully funded by Iowa attorneys as part of their annual fees.


The claim form to be used to apply for compensation from the Commission may be downloaded here: In Rich Text Format In PDF Format


An informational tri-fold on the fund is available here: Tri-fold  

The Commission shall consider for payment all claims resulting from the dishonest conduct of a lawyer licensed to practice law in Iowa acting as an attorney or a fiduciary, provided that:

  • The claim arises out of the practice of law.
  • The alleged defalcation occurred after January 1, 1974.
  • The claim is made within one year after the client's discovery of the loss. However, in unusual circumstances this time limitation may be extended by the commission for good cause.
  • The claim is made directly by or on behalf of the client or the client's personal representative or, if a corporation, by or on behalf of itself or its successors in interest.
  • The commission is satisfied there is no other source or collateral source for the reimbursement of the loss.
  • Claims shall not be made that arise out of employer-employee relationship as distinguished from a lawyer-client relationship or a fiduciary relationship.

The commission has full authority to determine whether the claim merits reimbursement from the fund and if so, the amount of such reimbursement and any conditions attached to reimbursement. When determining the amount of the reimbursement the commission must consider many factors such as the amount of money available in the fund, the degree of hardship suffered by the claimant, the losses of other claimants and the degree of negligence, if any, which may have contributed to the loss. No claimant or any other person or organization shall have any right in the fund as a third party beneficiary or otherwise. The claimant does not need to be represented by counsel before the commission.  




Trust Account Audits and Procedures

The Commission employs auditors who are responsible for conducting periodic unannounced audits of the trust accounts established by Iowa lawyers under the provisions of Chapter 39 and Chapter 45 of the Iowa Court Rules. 

An outline regarding trust account procedures has been published by Commission staff and is available here: In PDF format

The viewgraph slides associated with the outline are available here: In PowerPoint format 


2015 Rule Change


The Supreme Court adopted amendments to several provisions in Division III (Professional Regulation) of the Iowa Court Rules on November 20, 2015.  Among these changes was a new court rule pertaining to collection of the costs of special trust account audits.  The rule directs that the costs of performing a trust account audit must now be assessed to the attorney(s) signatory to the trust account if 1) the audit reveals the account was not in substantial compliance with the trust account rules, and 2) a circumstance specified in the rule caused performance of the audit. This new rule will be effective January 1, 2016. 


A copy of the rule is available here:  Rule 39.10(7)  



2012 Rule Changes 


In February of 2012 the Supreme Court adopted several changes in Division III of the Iowa Court Rules, pertaining to various matters within the scope of professional regulation.  One key change was the adoption of the substance of a recommendation made by the Client Security Commission last year regarding limited coverage of client security claims arising after a lawyer is suspended.  Iowa Court Rule 39.9 is affected by that change.   Another key change is adoption of specific trust account record keeping requirements, based on the ABA model rules. Iowa Court Rule 45.2 is affected by this change.   As explained in the summary published with the rule change: 


Iowa Court Rule 39.9 is amended to adopt the ABA model rule approach to coverage of client security claims arising after a lawyer's license has been suspended. Claims arising from conduct after entry of a suspension order will be covered, but only if the client's reliance on the state of the lawyer's license is reasonable. However, the amendment also adopts the Michigan qualification that if the conduct giving rise to the claim occurs more than six months after a lawyer's suspension, that reliance would be presumed unreasonable. In any event, revocation would constitute a bright-line date beyond which no claim could arise and be honored.  


Iowa Court Rule 45.2 is amended to incorporate the general record keeping and electronic records provisions of the ABA Model Rules for Client Trust Account Records, adopted by the ABA on August 9, 2010. The amendment also reflects informal guidance the Iowa Client Security Commission has provided lawyers during audits and seminars for several years regarding their record keeping obligation. Until now, however, specific guidance regarding required record keeping has not been included in the Iowa rules. The amendment leaves intact the provisions of Iowa Court Rules 45.7 through 45.10, which generally incorporate the court's guidance regarding advances for fees and costs first set out in Board of Professional Ethics & Conduct v. Apland, 577 N.W.2d 50 (Iowa 1998).  


A copy of the rule changes, adopting order, and a short summary are available here:  Rule Changes 


Handling Electronic Payment of Court Fees  


With the advent of electronic filing of pleadings in cases, electronic payment of filing fees now is possible, and in fact is required in some courts.  The Office of Professional Regulation has issued the following guidance for practitioners regarding the trust account aspects of electronic fee payments. 


            Short outline regarding electronic fee payments: EDMSOutline.pdf  

            Powerpoint slide set to accompany the outline: EDMSSlides.pdf

Other Available Outlines

Protecting Yourself from Fraud by Law Firm Employees, in Rich Text Format
Protecting Yourself from Fraud by Law Firm Employees, Powerpoint Slide Presentation

Commission Members

The commission is composed of seven members - five lowa lawyers and two lowa residents who are not lawyers. Members shall be appointed for a term of five years unless appointed to fill a vacancy in an unexpired term. Members shall not serve more than two complete four-year terms. The following persons currently serve on the commission:


Jennifer Clemens-Conlon, Chair, Dubuque

JoAnn Barten, Vice-Chair, Ames

Kenneth Boeke, Treasurer, West Des Moines

The Honorable Myron L. Gookin, Fairfield

Todd Geer, Grundy Center

Ann Powers, Fort Dodge

Joel Vos, Sioux City


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