Some attorneys, when they come across a situation that indicates that a colleague they are dealing with has clearly done something irregular with their trust account, try to avoid the issue. Sometimes it is used as a negotiating point with the other party and in other cases it is simply forgotten about as part of the settlement of a matter. This comes to attorneys’ attention when trust account cheques for example bounce or an attorney is not able to refund somebody who has incorrectly made payment into their account. We’ve had matters previously where the Road Accident Fund, instead of paying us, have paid the wrong firm of attorneys and in some cases those attorneys one or two years later still have not repaid the Road Accident Fund.
Attorneys in this position need to acquaint themselves with the rules for the attorneys’ profession which came into operation on 1 March 2016 replacing the various rules of the various Law Societies. Rule 35.35 requires that any member who comes across irregular conduct or dishonesty on the part of another member in relation to the handling of trust money is required to report that to the Society. In other words, if you come across such an instance, you have an obligation to report it to the Law Society and will obviously be guilty of contravening rule 35.35 if it ever comes out at a later stage that you were aware of an irregularity with regard to trust moneys of another attorney, but did not advise the Law Society of same.