Ethics

Lawyer Trust Accounts: Management Principles & Recordkeeping Resources

Date: Tuesday, June 16, 2015; 1:30–4:45 p.m.
Location:
WMU Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills Campus, Room AH 145, 2630 Featherstone Rd, Auburn Hills, MI  48326
Cost:
$50 for lawyers, $25 for non-lawyers
Registration:
Online or by Mail/Fax Form

No "walk-in" registrations will be accepted.

View the Agenda & Faculty

This half-day ethics seminar will feature presentations on how to manage lawyer trust accounts, including how to effectively use forms, checklists, and other recordkeeping resources. The seminar, which is open to lawyers and their staff, is an excellent way to learn more about Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15 and 1.15A.

Participants will receive practical information as well as materials prepared by the presenters: SBM Professional Standards Division Director Danon Goodrum-Garland, SBM Assistant General Counsel Nkrumah Johnson-Wynn, and Attorney Grievance Commission Senior Associate Counsel Rhonda Pozehl.

For more information contact Karen Spohn with the State Bar of Michigan Professional Standards Division at (517) 346-6309 or by e-mail to kspohn@mail.michbar.org.


Recent Developments

Judicial Ethics Committee Revamps Formal Opinion on Civic and Charitable Activities to Reflect Recent Amendments to MCJC
J-8 replaces J-1 in discussing a judge's participation in a variety of charitable activities, consistent with the recent revisions to the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct.

New Judicial Ethics Opinion Revisits a Judge's Service on an Organization's Board in Light of Recent MCJC Amendments
JI-140 discusses whether a newly-elected judge can continue to serve on a governmental agency's board that administers grants, replacing an earlier opinion on that topic, JI-12.

New Opinion Discusses Coupons as Fee Splitting
In RI-366, the Professional Ethics Committee finds unethical a marketing arrangement where consumers purchase coupons for legal services from a vendor who retains a portion before remitting the balance to the lawyer.

Judicial Ethics Opinion Discusses Recent Amendments to MCJC
JI-139 discusses ethical limitations on a judge's involvement with a nonprofit entity that fundraises to support the work of a problem-solving court under the revised Canons 2 and 4 of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct.

Ethics Opinion Proscribes Paying a Referral Fee to a Nonlawyer-owned For Profit Entity
In RI-365, the Professional Ethics Committee affirms that a lawyer ethically cannot pay for client leads received from a nonlawyer-owned for profit entity that provides leads through its website, concluding that the payment does not qualify as payment for advertising and can only be viewed as giving something of value to a person for recommending the lawyer's services.

Changes to the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct Became Effective August 1
New and modified language related to fundraising for judicial candidates, whether incumbent judges or lawyers, reinforces the concept that judges cannot directly solicit funds and addresses a judge's receipt of funds. Additional language clarifies the types of activities associated with noncampaign-related fundraising events in which judges ethically may participate. A modification of MRPC 8.2 cross-references language in the Code of Judicial Conduct applicable to lawyers who are judicial candidates. View a redlined version of the new language. View a clean copy of the revised Code here.

Recent Ethics Opinions

  • Informal Opinion JI-138 discusses a judge's ethical obligations when a lawyer who is an announced candidate for the judge's bench appears as an advocate before the judge.

  • Informal Opinion RI-361 addresses the facts presented in JI-138 from the lawyer's perspective.

  • Informal Opinion RI-360 addresses circumstances under which a lawyer representing a party may directly contact a former employee of another party not known to be represented in the matter in order to conduct an interview.

  • Informal Opinion RI-362 discusses a lawyer's reference to a past judicial position, including the years the position was held, in communications subject to scrutiny under the ethical rules.

  • Informal Opinion RI-363, discusses a personal injury lawyer's proposal to charge basic administrative services as cases costs in situations where the maximum permissible contingency fee is already being charged.

  • Informal Opinion RI-364 discusses how a lawyer may ethically charge clients for expenses, and addresses services provided by third parties, in-house costs in contingent fee cases, interest, and late charges.

Michigan Ethics Opinions

The State Bar of Michigan is pleased to provide this service to our membership to assist Michigan lawyers in researching ethics inquiries free of charge. This service provides the full index to Michigan ethics opinions, both professional and judicial, with links to all ethics opinions released since October 1988 using the citation abbreviations at common citations.

There are four ways to search for Michigan ethics opinions using our online service. If you know the opinion number, click on Quick Find by opinion number and enter it in the "get opinion" box. If you would like to search the text of the ethics opinions, click on Search full text of ethics opinion collection and insert key word text in the search criteria box. If you would like to search for ethics opinions by subject matter click on online index to review the topic index and tables of opinions. If you would like to search for ethics opinions interpreting specific rules of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) or specific canons of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct, click on Opinions interpreting MRPC or Opinions interpreting MCJC to review the tables of opinions.

If you would like to request a written ethics opinion regarding a particular issue, click on written Ethics Opinion to obtain instructions for submitting your written request.

Notice to Lawyers:
State Bar of Michigan ethics opinions are advisory and non-binding in nature. This index is a complete historical catalog. Some of the listed ethics opinions, though not expressly superseded in subsequent ethics opinions, may be nonetheless outmoded or no longer sound due to subsequent changes in case law, statutes, or court rules. Practitioners are urged to thoroughly research all sources to determine the current validity of any given ethics opinion.

Ethics Helpline

Members may contact the SBM Ethics Helpline at (877) 558-4760 to receive an informal, advisory opinion from a staff attorney regarding an ethics issue pertaining to the inquirer's prospective conduct. This number is reserved for lawyers and judges only. Staff counsel will not advise on past conduct of the inquirer, the conduct of another attorney or judge, on questions of law, or hypotheticals. The opinions of staff counsel are non-binding and advisory only.

Ethics Rules

Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct
Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct

Ethics Resources