Know your rights

The Attorney’s Fidelity Fund (AFF) fights for your rights when you have been cheated by your lawyer.

Your lawyer has to stick to the rules of the legal profession, and the AFF was created to ensure this happens. Your lawyer is not above the law.

Since 1941, the AFF has been the champion of justice for people who have lost money because of their lawyer.

Here are some of the situations where you might need someone from the AFF to assist you:

Someone has died and left you something valuable in their will, but your lawyer has taken it.

You have won a claim against the Road Accident Fund, but your lawyer hasn’t given you the money.

Your lawyer is supposed to help you to register the transfer of your property, but has instead taken some of the profits.

How to submit a claim against your lawyer? You must give notice of the claim to the Law Society of the province where your lawyer practices and to the fund, within a period of three months after you became aware of the theft.

Your claim must be submitted in the form of an affidavit, which you can get at any police station. An affidavit is a written, sworn statement where you explain what happened. It can be used as evidence in court.

This affidavit helps you prove your claim to the fund and also helps you to start a criminal investigation against your lawyer.

Your lawyer’s office file on your case must be submitted with your affidavit.

You must give the AFF all of your proof within six months of telling them about your claim. This will include documents like your bank statements and receipts from your lawyer.

But there are situations the AFF

can’t help you with. They include the following:

Your lawyer has been negligent (in this case, you should go to the Attorneys Insurance Indemnity Fund – AIIF).

You have done business transactions with a lawyer.

You have given money to a lawyer for investment purposes.

You have given a loan to a lawyer.

What happens to your lawyer when your documents prove he or she has taken your money?

If you win your case against your lawyer, then he or she is usually struck from the roll, which means that they aren’t allowed to practise law anymore.

You can also lay a criminal charge against your lawyer, where they might be fined or sent to jail if found guilty.

How common is the theft of money or property by attorneys?

In 2017, the AFF dealt with 891 claims against lawyers. The total value of these claims was below 0.5% of the total estimated money or property.

For more information on how the AFF can help you, go to http://www.fidfund.co.za/. You can also call the AFF’s anonymous Trustline on 0800 20 2036 or email them at trustline@tip-offs.com