NATIONAL CLIENT PROTECTION ORGANIZATION
To protect law clients from dishonest conduct in the practice of law.
2022 - Michael J. Knight
Michael began his legal career as Assistant Counsel with the
New York Lawyers’ Fund in 1990 following his graduation from
Albany Law School. In 2000, he was appointed Deputy Counsel,
and in 2018, Michael became the New York Fund’s Executive
Director and Counsel, where he continues to serve today.
During his 32 years with the New York Lawyers’ Fund, Michael has
played a vital role in reimbursing victims of dishonest lawyers, as
well as in the administration and oversight of several New York
regulatory rules for the benefit of law client victims. Initiatives
championed by Michael include the dishonored check reporting
rule; missing client and deceased attorney funds rule; and
Insurance Regulation 64, requiring payee notification. Most
recently, he was instrumental in the expansion of the dishonored
check reporting rule to include overdraft notifications.
Michael has provided countless lectures throughout New York state with bar associations, and continuing legal education programs, educating New York attorneys on how to comply with their fiduciary and escrow obligations and avoid situations that can result in losses.
It is because of Michael’s dedication and service to the New York Lawyers’ Fund that it has become one of the foremost client protection programs in the nation.
For over three decades Michael has been a leader in the client protection field throughout the U.S. and Canada. He served as NCPO’s president, participates in virtually all NCPO workshops and ABA Forums, and is clearly a “go to” person whose experience, knowledge, grace and wit has helped so many of us in the field. He has also been an active member of the Standing Committee on Law Client Protection of the American Bar Association, and continues to develop and offer analysis, forms, and advice in support of funds across the country. In his many roles, Michael has been the consummate ambassador of the ideals of law client protection.
Michael Harmon, chair of the Hecht Award Committee, talks about Isaac Hecht and the award bearing his name.
2020 - Edward T. Ehler
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Edward T. Ehler is the former Deputy Director of the New Jersey Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection. Ed graduated from Rutgers University and Seton Hall Law School and was admitted to the New Jersey Bar in 1982. He spent 25 years in private practice, both in association with firms and later, as a solo practitioner. As a litigator, Ed developed extensive expertise in commercial, corporate and personal injury cases. In 2007 he joined the New Jersey Fund as its senior counsel and began a 11-year career in the public sector. Ed became known as a frequent presenter at NCPO workshops and ABA forums and served as counsel to the NCPO. Trustees and colleagues alike valued his keen sense of the law and encyclopedic knowledge of precedent and Court Rules.
Ed became Deputy Director of the New Jersey Fund in 2011. Ed presented hundreds of claims to the Trustees, each with meticulous attention to detail. Ed’s work greatly enhanced the standing of the Fund before Courts as well as federal and state prosecutors and agencies. By developing working relationships with the New Jersey Bureau of Securities, the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, the FBI and others, he was able to present the best possible information to his Trustees. He was also able to maximize the Fund’s recovery by securing court-ordered restitution and pursuing banks, title companies, respondents and other collateral sources. Ed’s efforts resulted in the recovery of several million dollars for the Fund before his retirement in 2018.
Of particular note is Ed’s collaboration with the Pennsylvania Fund in the case of Michael W. Kwasnik, a respondent who practiced in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Based on Ed’s thorough investigations, New Jersey’s Trustees ultimately found that Kwasnik had stolen over $13 million from 49 victims. In order to maximize the victims’ recovery, Ed worked closely with the Pennsylvania Fund to jointly address claims in light of each Fund’s limitations. His efforts resulted in what is believed to be the first-ever coordinated multi-Fund response to a respondent’s dishonest conduct. As a result, the New Jersey Supreme Court waived the New Jersey Fund’s $1.5 million per-respondent limit on claims against Kwasnik, allowing the Fund to pay a total of $12.1 million to Kwasnik’s victims – the largest amount paid on a single respondent in the Fund’s 51 year history.
Through it all, Ed has been a consummate professional. He exemplifies the highest standards of the practice of law, and is a true gentleman as well as a good friend. Congratulations, Ed!
2019 - Timothy J. O’Sullivan
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Timothy J. O’Sullivan, the former Executive Director and Counsel for the New York Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection, was awarded the prestigious Isaac Hecht Award for 2019 during the NCPO’s Fall Workshop in Princeton this past September.
Tim began his legal career as a summer intern with the New York Lawyers’ Fund in 1985, following his second year at Albany Law School. Immediately upon graduation the Fund hired Tim to serve as Deputy Counsel. In 2000, the Board of Trustees appointed Tim as Executive Director and Counsel, which he fulfilled with distinction until his retirement in July 2018. Under his quiet and steady leadership, and clear vision, the New York Lawyers’ Fund has become one of the foremost client protection program in the nation.
In addition to lecturing throughout the State, participating with bar associations, and continuing legal education programs, Tim was instrumental in creating invaluable cooperation with Disciplinary Committees and local prosecutors resulting in a unique coordination that has facilitated efficient and rapid assistance to victimized law clients.
Tim created a Digest of Precedents as a resource for the Trustees of the New York Lawyers’ Fund. A redacted version of this document has been made available to ABA and NCPO membership as a resource template. Tim co-produced regulations leading to the Statewide adoption of policies and procedures permitting distribution of over $5 million in missing law client funds for the benefit of law client victims, and he helped develop and propose streamline procedures for securing post-discipline attorney restitution Court orders in cases of attorney resignation.
At the national level, Tim has had extended participation and leadership with the Standing Committee on Law Client Protection of the American Bar Association, as well as serving for 12 years as the Treasurer of the National Client Protection Organization. Congratulations, Tim!
2018 - Jim E. Coyle
Jim Coyle is Attorney Regulation Counsel for the Colorado Supreme Court, overseeing attorney admissions, attorney registration, mandatory continuing legal and judicial education, attorney discipline and diversion, regulation of the unauthorized practice of law, and in-ventory counsel matters. Mr. Coyle has been a trial attorney with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel or successor Office of Attorney Regu-lation Counsel since 1990. Prior to that, he was in private practice. He served on the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC) board of directors from 2014 – 2016. Mr. Coyle was on the Advisory Committee to the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and is now a member of the Commission for the 2017 – 2018 term.
Mr. Coyle co-chaired the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, which released its report, The Path to Lawyer Well-Being, Practical Recommendations for Positive Change, in 2017. Both the American Bar Association and the Conference of Chief Jus-tices have passed resolutions encouraging review and consideration of this report’s 44 recommendations for improving lawyer well-being.
Mr. Coyle has been actively involved with the National Client Protection Organization (NCPO), the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), and the International Conference of Legal Regulators (ICLR). He acted as co-chair and organizer of the First ABA Standing Committee on Client Protection UPL School in Denver in August 2013, and he was a member of the planning team for the second and third UPL schools held in 2015 and 2017. Mr. Coyle served as a member of the Colorado Chief Justice Commission on Professional Development and its mid-career working group, the Colorado Bar Association/Denver Bar Association Professionalism Coordinating Council and its subcommittee on a professionalism rule, the Supreme Court Standing Committee on the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct, and the University of Colorado Law Alumni Board’s Diversity Committee.
2017 - Eric A. Seiff
2016 - Michael Harmon
Michael Harmon has been instrumental in improving the Arkansas Fund, recently securing an ABA Consultation for the Arkansas Client Security program. Supporters noted that “There was a time when the Arkansas Fund was depleted (and) under Michael’s leadership, the Arkansas Client Security Fund increased its overall fund balance to an amount over one million dollars….Through his hard work, Michael has promoted the excellence of the Arkansas Committee and has ensured that it will remain a viable and crucial component of the Arkansas legal community.”
2015 - Kris Wenzel
Kris Wenzel, liaison to the Wisconsin Client Security Fund since 1991 where she has engineered a number of structural corrections to Wisconsin’s court rules and Fund policies, permitting the Wisconsin Fund to increase its award cap three times. Kris tackled the problem of under-funding by petitioning the Wisconsin Supreme Court to eliminate a “sufficiency level” budget limitation on the Fund and by setting a permanent lawyer assessment. Kris has also overseen the adoption of more client friendly fund policies and created a culture in and among her Trustees which encourages their attendance, participation and education at both ABA and NCPO forums and workshops. Perhaps most significantly, she has nurtured a mindset in which the Wisconsin Fund now seeks ways to assist clients rather than reasons to deny claims. When presented with the award, Kris noted, “The Fund is the reason I come to work every day
2014 - Alabama State Bar Client Security Fund Committee
The Alabama State Bar Client Security Fund Committee was honored with the 2014 Isaac Hecht Law Client Protection Award to recognize the success of a task force it created to study ways to improve their Fund. Because of the task force, significant changes were made to Fund rules for the first time in 30 years.
2013 - Karen O’Toole
2012 - Janet Green Marbley
2011 - Charles Goldberg
2010 - Richard C. Bosson and Charles J. Vigil
2009 - The Connecticut Bar Association
2008 - Thomas J. Moyer
Chief Justice Moyer was the 2008 recipient of NCPO’s Isaac Hecht Award for Excellence in Client Protection for his unwavering support of adequate funding, loss prevention, and increased maximums for Fund awards.
2007 - Kenneth J. Bossong
2006 - William Ricker
2005 - Frederick Miller
2004 - Frank X. Neuner, Jr.