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Four years ago, the Louisiana Client Protection Fund was one of the worst in the country. It had a reserve balance of $219 with no financing in sight. It was reluctant to make awards, and it capped reimbursement at $15,000 a loss. The fund was so secret that when the state bar discipline committee chairman stole $200,000 from a client and was disbarred, no one told his victim about it. Today, the fund, revamped and renamed the Client Assistance Fund, has $600,000 in reserve and an expected cash flow of $300,000 and then $500,000 annually over the next 17 years-enough to create an endowment to fund the program in perpetuity. It has raised its cap, sped up claims review and stopped denying claims on technicalities. Everyone who complains to the lawyer disciplinary board now gets a brochure about the fund. This change was made possible by a donation by the state’s team of tobacco lawyers, who shared $575 million in fees from Louisiana’s $206 billion tobacco settlement. The team, led by Drew Ranier, now of Ranier, Gayle & Elliot in Lake Charles, quietly formed the Louisiana Outside Counsel Health and Ethics Foundation, which has promised to donate more than $12 million to a range of programs. Frank X. Neuner Jr., a Lafayette attorney with Laborde & Neuner, chaired a committee that sought the changes and worked with the foundation to get the financing.

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