From the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the State Bar of Michigan has been advocating tirelessly for clear recognition that pandemic public health restrictions must not obstruct the ethical requirements of the practice of law.
We’re pleased to share with you an important change in the guidance from the governor’s office that makes clear that you can provide legal services in person or outside your home when your ethical obligations as an attorney so require.
We know many of you were already interpreting the order in this way. For the rest of you, we hope this significant update gives you one less thing to worry about during this difficult time.
Here is the text of the new guidance:
Q: Can law firms, attorney offices and legal aid clinics continue in-person activities or remote activities on legal matters within a law office?
A: Generally, no. Attorneys are only allowed to work outside the home or meet in-person with clients to the extent that they cannot perform the work remotely or cannot comply with their ethical obligations by performing the work remotely. All work under the order must be performed remotely to the greatest extent possible, and any in-person work must adopt social distancing practices and other mitigation measures to protect workers and patrons, as described in Executive Order 2020-97 and any orders that may follow from it.
Thank you to everyone who responded to our recent request for examples of situations where you were unable to competently and ethically carry out legal representation while abiding by quarantine restrictions, and to those of you who had already reached out to us. We took every single one of your responses to heart and used the information you shared in our continuous outreach to the Governor.
We are now finalizing our reopening guidance for law firms so you can begin to take steps to prepare. Look for that shortly.
We wish you health and safety. Your work is more important than ever, and we are proud to support it.