Ethics

While we all face uncertainty dealing with COVID-19, the SBM’s Ethics department has published a guideline of Ethics During the COVID-19 Pandemic to help during this trying time.


Recent Developments

Ethics Seminar

Lawyer Trust Accounts Seminar

Date: Tuesday, August 11, 2020; 1:15–4:45 p.m.
Cost: $50 for lawyers; $25 for non-lawyers, law students, & unlicensed graduates. Payment and the completed registration form must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Fri., Aug. 7, 2020.
Location: State Bar of Michigan, 306 Townsend St, Lansing
Register online or by mail form

Tips & Tools Seminar

Date: Thursday, November 5, 2020
Time: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Cost: $100 (attorneys licensed to practice less than five years, including law students and unlicensed graduates);
$125 (attorneys licensed to practice five years or more)
Location: State Bar of Michigan, 306 Townsend St, Lansing
Register online

Ethics Opinions

Issued in 2020

JI-149 A judge consulting with another judge to seek guidance in carrying out the judge’s adjudicative responsibilities

JI-148 A judge supporting charitable organizations on social media

JI-147 Judicial officers’ and candidates’ campaign activity on social media account

JI-145 A Judge making a private monetary donation to a nonjudicial candidate’s campaign

RI-381 Lawyers have ethical obligations to understand technology, including cybersecurity

Issued in 2019

RI-380 Ethical duties of an out-of-state lawyer who moves to Michigan and applies for admission

RI-379 An attorney who serves as an arbitrator or mediator us of an IOLTA account

RI-378 A lawyer’s obligation when terminating representation based upon a client’s refusal to accept a plea agreement in a pending criminal case

Issued in 2018

RI-377 Conflicts of interest involving “generally known” information

R-25 Participation in a for-profit online matching service is unethical.

 

Ethics Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Judicial Campaigns Ethics FAQs

Disqualified Lawyers FAQs—lawyers who are suspended, disbarred, inactive, or have resigned from membership

LinkedIn Ethics FAQs

Facebook Ethics FAQs

Twitter Ethics FAQs

Tumblr, Snapchat, Reddit, Pinterest, Instagram Ethics FAQs

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—(877) 558-4760

Members may contact the SBM Ethics Helpline at (877) 558-4760 to receive a confidential, informal advisory opinion from a staff attorney regarding an ethics issue pertaining to the inquirer's prospective conduct. The opinions of staff counsel are non-binding and advisory only.

  1. Lawyers and judges who call the helpline are required to leave a confidential voicemail containing their full name, telephone number, P number, and short description of the question. Calls are generally returned within one business day.
  2. Calls to the ethics helpline are confidential.
  3. Prior to calling the helpline, lawyers should review the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, Ethics Opinions, and Frequently Asked Questions.
  4. Staff counsel will not provide a definitive answer due to the limited information obtained during a brief and informal telephone conversation.
  5. Staff counsel will not advise on:
    • Past conduct of the inquirer;
    • The conduct of another attorney or judge, which is solely within the jurisdiction of the Attorney Grievance Commission;
    • Questions of law, as staff counsel does not provide legal advice;
    • Hypotheticals;
    • Questions that are before the Attorney Grievance Commission;
    • The subject of a pending legal proceeding where the lawyer is a defendant; or
    • The unlicensed practice of law, which is governed by statutory law, not the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct.
  6. If you maintain malpractice insurance, you may wish to contact your malpractice insurance carrier’s helpline for assistance as well.

Members may also send an email to ethics@michbar.org. A staff attorney will respond with a phone call or provide ethics resources but will not provide an opinion in writing. To obtain an opinion in writing, see How to Request an Ethics Opinion.

Ethics Rules

Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct
Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct

Ethics Resources