The Year 2000 Problem and Lawyer Trust Accounts
Opinion rules that whether the year 2000 computer problem is being adequately addressed by a depository bank should be considered when selecting a depository bank for a trust account.
Many older computer software and hardware systems record data and make calculations using only the last two digits of a year. Because computers with this limitation will interpret "00" as "1900,"1 there may be serious system failures in numerous industries, including the banking industry, when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 1999. The computer problems associated with the approach of the next millennium are commonly referred to collectively as "the year 2000 problem."2
A lawyer has a fiduciary obligation to segregate and protect client funds by depositing them in a trust account with a North Carolina bank. Rule 1.15-1(d). What steps should a lawyer take to safeguard client funds in a trust account from potential loss due to a year 2000 problem at the depository bank for the lawyer's trust account?
A lawyer must exercise due care in selecting a depository bank including consideration of how the year 2000 problem is addressed by the bank.
- 1. Most computer operating systems do not recognize "1900." Therefore, they will report the earliest possible date they support. This is usually January 1, 1980. Dollars & Cents at 4, American Society of Association Executives, (August 1998).
- 2. This is not intended to be a thorough explanation of the year 2000 problem. Lawyers are advised to research the problem thoroughly and to address in advance any potential malfunctions that may interrupt their practices.