Opinion 96-7
(July 1996)

This opinion addresses how a lawyer should hold a so-called refundable retainer. The question is whether it is permissible under the Rules of Professional Conduct for a lawyer to deposit a refundable retainer into the lawyer's operating account as opposed to depositing the retainer into an escrow account. The facts of the inquiry are straightforward. As an advance against which future charges will be made, the Inquirer's firm receives a refundable retainer. While in the past such a retainer was deposited by the firm into its escrow bank account, the inquiry questions whether the firm may instead deposit the retainer into the firm's general operating account. This issue has been addressed by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (Board) in Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Anonymous, No. 98 DB 92 (1994) (the Board Decision). 1 At its heart, the issue concerns RPC Rule 1.15(a), which reads as follows: