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May 2020

Start preparing now to make your office reopening easier in the future

Reopening GuideThe Governor is taking a phased approach in reopening Michigan, starting with opening Regions 6 and 8 on May 22. To help you be prepared for reopening in your region, we created a law office reopening toolkit using guidance from Executive Order 2020-97, OSHA, CDC, and other relevant sources. The purpose of the toolkit is to help you think through important health and safety issues and take practical steps to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to attorneys, staff, and clients when your office reopens.

You can download our recommended guidelines. We’ve also created printable signs for posting in your office that can help you, your colleagues, and your clients keep this guidance top of mind.

We’re tracking the emerging legal trends of the pandemic

We’ve expanded our resources related to COVID-19 and the practice of law by tracking emerging legal trends arising from the crisis. From force majeure issues to remote notarization, our Emerging Law page includes important practice tips and guidance from attorneys navigating these uncharted waters.

If you are encountering a significant, emerging trend in your practice area and have insight you’d like to share, please email

Check out these articles from other Michigan lawyers

Throughout the pandemic, we’re publishing timely articles by Michigan lawyers related to the practice of law during the crisis here. Make sure to check back often for updates. Current titles include:

In less than 5 minutes, you can help the legal profession and enter to win a $500 Amazon gift card

2020 Economics of Law Practice SurveyWe know there’s a lot going on right now, so we’ve extended the deadline—and your chance to win a $500 Amazon gift card—for the 2020 Economics of Law Practice Survey. This crucial survey is conducted once every three years, and we’re really close to collecting the number of responses necessary, but we need your help.

If you’ve already responded, thank you. If you haven’t, we’re writing one more time to ask that you please give us five minutes of your time and complete this very important anonymous survey:

The 2020 Economics of Law Practice survey is more important than ever, as it will capture information from 2019 and provide a crucial benchmark for how things were before the pandemic. The information collected is used to update a comprehensive database that many Michigan courts use as a primary resource to determine attorney fees.

We take your privacy very seriously. Your secure response will be anonymous, and all results will be reported in aggregate only—no individual responses will be identifiable. Thanks for your help!

Voting is underway for the 2020 State Bar of Michigan election

Election NoticeBy now, you should have received an email from or with your link to vote in the 2020 State Bar of Michigan election. If you have not yet received the email (subject line "Vote Now in the 2020 State Bar of Michigan Election—E-Ballot enclosed"), please check your spam or junk folder. If you determine that you were not sent a ballot, contact Election Services Corp. at 1-866-720-4357.

Elections are being held for positions on the Judicial Tenure Commission, the Board of Commissioners in Districts H and I, and the Representative Assembly in Circuits 6, 7, 16, 22, and 40. Unless your address on file is in one of the districts or circuits where there is a contested race, you should have only received a ballot for the Judicial Tenure Commission race.

Voting will end at 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, June 15, 2020.

If you have questions, contact Marge Bossenbery at, (517) 346-6327, or Carrie Sharlow at, (517) 346-6317.

The July Bar Exam will be a remote online essay test

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board of Law Examiners has shelved the traditional two-day format for the July 2020 bar examination in favor of a single-day, essay-only, remote option.

Originally scheduled for July 28–29, the modified test will be held on Tuesday, July 28. The 15-question essay exam will cover both state and federal law topics similar to those that would be addressed in the 200-question Multistate Bar Exam, which cannot be administered online this year.

“The board conducted extensive research and consultations to make this decision, including outreach to Michigan public health officials and law school deans, while monitoring developments in the pandemic and approaches of other states,” Justice Brian K. Zahra, the Michigan Supreme Court’s liaison to the Board of Law Examiners, said in a press release. “Law school graduates can sit for the exam without risking public health.”

The BLE is working with Michigan’s five law schools and the University of Toledo to make sure that individuals with disabilities who cannot take the exam online are able to take the test in person with appropriate safety measures. The full extent of Michigan Supreme Court Order 2020-15 addressing the July 2020 bar exam modifications can be found here.

Watch a replay of the virtual mass swearing-in ceremony

Mass Swearing-In CeremonyThe Michigan Supreme Court and State Bar of Michigan welcomed more than 125 participants in a first-of-its kind virtual mass swearing-in ceremony on May 15, 2020. Due to the pandemic, bar passers were given this unique opportunity to be sworn in virtually by Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, upon a motion presented by State Bar of Michigan President Dennis Barnes.

You can watch the full ceremony on the Court’s YouTube page.

The Virtual Courtroom Directory has been enhanced

Election NoticePublic access to court proceedings has expanded dramatically, thanks to an enhanced Virtual Courtroom Directory, the Michigan Supreme Court recently announced. New features allow users to search courts where virtual hearings are being held, sort by judge or hearing officer, click on a county to view if a specific court is offering streaming abilities, and more.

Chief Justice Bridget McCormack said in a press release that she is proud of the way Michigan courts have stepped up to increase access to proceedings.

“With just two or three clicks, the public can find and watch local court proceedings,” she said in the release. “Michigan’s courts have responded to this crisis by opening the virtual doors of our courthouses wide. I am so proud of the commitment to innovation that is transforming the judiciary, expanding access, and strengthening democracy.”

Despite significant restrictions on public proceedings, the courts have adapted quickly and effectively, according to the release, which notes that “nearly 1,000 judges and other court officers have Zoom licenses and more than 100,000 hours of hearings have been conducted remotely since April 1.”

Visit the Virtual Courtroom Directory or the Supreme Court’s COVID-19 page for additional information and resources.

A new program with the lofty goal of saving one million law firm jobs

A new initiative from SBM partners, the Law Firm Assist program, was created to offer you free law firm management assistance for six months with open helpdesk hours and a resource library to help you throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This program is being funded by Clio and Ruby, SBM partners, as well as How To Manage a Small Law Firm to keep small law firm owners thriving during these unprecedented times.

A special message from SBM President Dennis M. Barnes

Throughout the pandemic, I hope you have found the updates from the State Bar to be helpful and informative. From the daily e-Journal and NewsLinks emails, to the regular updates on, to the Public Policy updates (sign up here if you haven’t yet), I find myself learning something new and useful in every bulletin—and I’m pretty well-connected to what’s going on at the State Bar. I hope you’ll agree that the information flow from SBM has been more robust, timely, effective, and useful than ever.

This has not happened by accident. It is a credit to the flexibility, creativity, and industry of SBM staff—who, like you, are all working remotely. When we say that your State Bar has been working round the clock during the pandemic crisis, I want you to know that is not hyperbole. Many SBM staff have worked nonstop through weekends and holidays and through the night to respond to the unprecedented challenges of this crisis and to help deliver what lawyers and the public have most needed, with speed and accuracy, during the crisis.

These extraordinary efforts are deserving of our deepest appreciation and gratitude. So for myself, and on behalf of all SBM members, I say “thank you” to the entire SBM staff.

Dennis M. Barnes
President, State Bar of Michigan