Basic rules

Façade-MDA-200721-BD-11

RULE 1 :

Any handling of funds carried out by a lawyer must necessarily constitute the accessory of a legal or judicial act. 

A lawyer therefore does not have the right to handle funds on behalf of his client other than as an accessory to a legal or judicial transaction that he performs for this client. 

RULE 2 :

Any handling of funds carried out by a lawyer on behalf of his clients must imperatively go through the CARPA.

The lawyer can never receive funds from or on behalf of his clients in his own bank accounts or in those of his law firm (except the collection of his expenses and fees).

He has the obligation to have these funds collected by the CARPA to which he will then give his instructions to make payment to the beneficiaries.


The Court of Cassation has ruled that the fact that a lawyer handles funds outside the CARPA constituted the offense of breach of trust. 

It is therefore strictly forbidden for a lawyer to handle funds outside of the CARPA.

NB: A trust does not fall within the scope of intervention of the CARPA in the current state of the law.

RULE 3 :

The bank account in which the funds received by the lawyer on behalf of his clients are deposited is opened in the name of the CARPA.

The lawyer who receives funds on behalf of a client has an obligation to have them collected by the CARPA. 

The CARPA registers the case in its accounting records (each law firm having a sub-account in which each case is identified separately), while the bank account in which the funds are deposited is an account opened in the name of the CARPA with its bank.

The lawyer can only carry out transactions on the CARPA bank account by delegation since he is not the account holder.

The President of the Bar Association authorises the delegation of signature to the lawyer and can have it suspended or withdrawn at any time. 

A lawyer cannot therefore freely dispose of his clients' funds.

Furthermore, the deduction of lawyer's fees can only be made with the authorisation of the client under the supervision of the CARPA. 

RULE 4 :

Any handling of funds carried out by a lawyer on behalf of his clients is subject to the prior control by CARPA, both in entry and withdrawal.

The CARPA plays a role in preventing fraud (Article 241 of the Decree of November 27, 1991).

The control exercised by the CARPA is notably deontological in nature; it is exercised under the authority of the President of the Bar Association. The lawyer has the obligation to answer CARPA's questions when it requests explanations or supporting documents relating to an operation for which he has received or is to receive funds without being able to invoke professional secrecy. 

Principle of professional secrecy shared between the lawyer and the President of the Bar Association:

The Court of Cassation confirmed in a 2003 judgment (Civ. 1st, October 21, 2003 n°01-11-16) that the internal regulations for the handling of funds adopted by the Council of the Bar Association could legitimately "by derogation from professional secrecy" allow the Bar Association to require the lawyer to provide explanations to the CARPA.

The control carried out by the CARPA thus falls within the framework of the professional secrecy shared between the lawyer and the President of his Bar Association, the principle of which was highlighted by the European Court of Human Rights in the Michaud judgment of December 6, 2012 (ECHR December 6, 2012, n° 12323/11 Michaud c/ France). This judgment dealt with the issue of the declaration of suspicion and of the "filter of the President of the Bar Association" stipulated by French law, with the declarations of suspicion by lawyers not being made directly to TRACFIN but to the President of the Bar Association who verifies that it falls within the scope of application of the law and who then sends it to TRACFIN.

This is a control and regulation system placed under the responsibility of the professional authority applying to any handling of funds carried out by lawyers.

A lawyer cannot therefore receive funds or give instructions to transfer them to the beneficiaries without prior control by the CARPA under the authority and responsibility of the Bar Association and the President of the Bar Association. 

The action of the CARPA falls within the framework of Articles 17-9, 17-13 and 53-9 of Law n° 71-1130 of December 31, 1971, entrusting to the Bar Association the responsibility for verifying that lawyers' bookkeeping and compliance with their anti-money laundering obligations. 

Under the terms of Article L.561-36 of the Monetary and Financial Code, the monitoring of compliance by lawyers with their obligations in the fight against money laundering and, where applicable, the power of sanction in the event of non-compliance with the latter, are in fact ensured by the Bar Association, which can be assisted in its control mission by the National Council of Bar Associations in accordance with Article 21-1 of the Law of December 31, 1971.

The CARPA constitutes for the Bar Association a real "operational arm" dedicated to the control and the regulation of the handling of funds carried out by the lawyers; it is a key element of the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing device of the legal profession and of its self-regulation.