Can my lawyer legally hold my tax check in his trust account?

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2010

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Can my lawyer legally hold my tax check in his trust account?

My ex and I had our tax check sitting in my lawyers trust account until the judgment came back to know how to divvy it out. Judgment says to split it. My lawyer who lost my case completely wants to keep my half to puts towards my fees. My $2500 retainer is paid and I owe him approx. $2400 more. My half of taxes is about $1500 can he legally keep this from me? I am planning on paying him monthly but am in desperate need of this refund right now. I may let him keep half of the money depending on my rights.

Asked on July 15, 2010 under Business Law, Iowa


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

If you owe your attorney, it may make more sense to pay him a bulk sum now because he may then choose to forgive the remaining amount if that is the decision you two can mutually agree to do.  Otherwise, check your retainer agreement with your attorney about how monies are to be given to you from the trust account and if this is separate from your retainer account.  It should indicate how your monies are to be paid to you but generally speaking, your attorney cannot simply unilaterally decide to keep your money judgment if you didn't agree to such an arrangement to begin with.  If you are still concerned, consider contacting your state's bar and inquire if you need to file a complaint against your counsel.

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