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Ethics

Lawyer Trust Accounts: Management Principles and Recordkeeping Resources

    Date: Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014; 1:30–4:45 p.m.
    Location: State Bar of Michigan, 306 Townsend St, Lansing
    Cost: $50 for lawyers, $25 for non-lawyers
    Register by October 15: Online or Mail/Fax Form
    No "walk-in" registrations will be accepted.

    View the Agenda & Faculty PDF

    This half-day seminar will feature presentations on how to ethically manage lawyer trust accounts, and effectively use forms, checklists and other recordkeeping resources. The seminar, open to lawyers and their staff members, 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 at 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.

Pro Hac Vice Admission

    Out-of-state attorneys seeking to appear in a Michigan case or proceeding, whether before a court, administrative tribunal or agency, or arbitration proceeding, must comply with Michigan's pro hac vice rule. Lawyers seeking temporary admission should review MCR 8.126, MCR 9.108, and Rule 15 of the Rules Concerning the State Bar of Michigan to fully understand the requirements and procedure. Every lawyer seeking admission under the pro hac vice rule subjects himself or herself to the jurisdiction of Michigan's attorney discipline system.

    MCR 8.126 provides that an out-of-state attorney is permitted to appear and practice in no more than five cases in a 365-day period. For the privilege of practicing in Michigan, the out-of-state attorney must pay a fee of $125 for each motion filed. That fee is payable to the State Bar of Michigan, 306 Townsend St., Lansing, MI 48933, and should be sent to the attention of the Finance Department, with a notation that it is a pro hac vice fee being paid on behalf of the out-of-state attorney, and include that attorney's name and address. The State Bar will provide a letter acknowledging receipt of payment within three business days from receipt of payment.

    A Michigan attorney who is associated with the out-of-state attorney must file the pro hac vice motion, to which must be attached a current certificate of good standing from a jurisdiction where the out-of-state attorney is licensed and eligible to practice; an affidavit by the out-of-state lawyer verifying certain information set forth in the rule pertaining to licensure, disciplinary history, and verifying a current familiarity with Michigan court rules; and a copy of an acknowledgment letter from the State Bar of Michigan evidencing payment of the required fee. The Michigan attorney must attest that he or she has read the affidavit, has made a reasonable inquiry concerning its contents, believes the out-of-state attorney's representations are true, and agrees to ensure that the procedures in the rule are followed.

    A copy of the motion and attachments must also be submitted to the Attorney Grievance Commission by mail to Attn: Pro Hac Vice, Attorney Grievance Commission, 535 Griswold, Suite 1700, Detroit, MI 48226 or by e-mail to ProHacVice@agcmi.com. The Attorney Grievance Commission must, within seven days of receipt of the motion and affidavit, notify the tribunal, the Michigan attorney, and the out-of-state attorney whether that out-of-state attorney has been admitted in Michigan in the past 365 days, if so, how many times.

    For additional questions regarding this process, call the Attorney Grievance Commission at (313) 961-6585 or e-mail questions to ProHacVice@agcmi.com.

    View the Court Rule PDF

    For additional questions about how and where to file the fee, contact Carol Peterson at the State Bar of Michigan by phone at (517) 346-6377 or e-mail at cpeterson@mail.michbar.org.

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

Ethics Resources

     

 

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State Bar of Michigan
306 Townsend St
Lansing, MI 48933-2012
Phone: (517) 346-6300
Toll Free: (800) 968-1442
Fax: (517) 482-6248