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Client Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions serve as guidance for a clients/former clients in the event of a closing of their former attorney’s office either through death, disbarment, abandonment, or disability.


  1. Will another attorney be automatically appointed by the court or the Kentucky Bar Association to represent me and to take over my case upon the death or disability of my attorney?

    No. The Circuit Court in the judicial circuit where your attorney’s primary office was located will appoint a “special commissioner” or “assisting attorney” to coordinate closing your attorney’s law practice. If your attorney has passed, the appointment may be made through the District Probate Court. The appointed attorney will assist you in the return of your file. It is your responsibility to retain substitute counsel to practice your case.

  2. Am I entitled to the return of my unused fee, paid to my attorney during representation of me?

    Yes, but please be patient. You may not receive your refund immediately at the time you initially contact the appointed attorney. You should collect all of your billing records, fee agreement, and receipts for payment of fees that you received from your attorney during representation of you. Request a meeting with the individual who has been appointed to close out your attorney’s law practice, and take all billing documents with you. Once a review of your former attorney’s trust/escrow account has been performed, and the court has authorized a trustee access to your former attorney’s trust account, you are entitled to a refund of your unused fee.

  3. Am I entitled to my file? What do I need to do to obtain my file?

    Yes, you are. The Court will appoint an attorney called a “special commissioner” or an “assisting attorney” whom has a previous agreement with your former attorney to close out the practice. That attorney should contact you if he/she has not done so already. That attorney will provide you with information as to when your file will be available to you, and will provide you with a form for you to complete authorizing the release of your file, either directly to you or to your new attorney, if you have retained one. If you have not been contacted, then take the initiative. Call your former attorney’s office. If there is no answer, make a trip to the office to determine if there is anyone present or instructions posted on the door stating when your file will be available. If you are still unsuccessful in contacting anyone about the return of your file, then contact the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in the county where your former attorney’s principal office was located and ask for the name of the attorney who has been appointed by the Court as the “special commissioner” responsible for closing out your attorney’s law practice.  If you need immediate access to the official record containing pleadings, you may be able to obtain that even before contacting the individual who is responsible for closing out your former attorney’s office. You may obtain those records by making a trip to the District/Circuit Court Clerk’s office where your case was filed, or if you have retained substitute counsel, your new attorney will be able to obtain from the District/Circuit Court Clerk a copy of all pleadings that have been filed in your case.

  4. What if I know that there is a pending deadline in my case, and no special commissioner or assisting attorney has been appointed? Will I be penalized for missing the deadline?

    You could be. It depends on the nature of the deadline, the court where the deadline is pending, and the willingness of opposing counsel to accommodate you and your efforts to avoid missing the deadline. Try to retain substitute counsel as soon as possible to make sure that your deadline does not run. If you do not have the time to do that before the expiration of your deadline, then make your best effort to draft your own motion seeking the Court’s permission for enlargement of time, or to toll the statute, due to the death or disability of your attorney. File it with the appropriate clerk, and send a copy to the opposing party or their attorney if they have one. You may also want to contact the opposing party’s counsel and request a tolling agreement or agreed order for enlargement of time.

  5. What if I learn that my former attorney potentially committed malpractice, missed filing deadlines, or misappropriated or stole my fee? What should I do? To whom should I notify?

    You should report this to the Kentucky Bar Association. You may file a complaint against your former attorney by going to the website and downloading the Complaint Form. You may also call the Kentucky Bar Association, explain your situation, and ask to speak to Office of Bar Counsel. You may also consider consulting with a private attorney for the purpose of filing a legal malpractice case against your former attorney or his/her estate. In addition, a private attorney may be able to assist you in determining whether your former attorney carried legal malpractice insurance.

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