Ethics

Recent Developments

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.

Learn More About Rule 21 button

Ethics Seminar

Lawyer Trust Accounts Seminar: Management Principles & Recordkeeping Resources

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Tuesday, October 25, 2024

This half-day webinar features presentations on the ethical management of lawyer trust accounts and the effective use of forms, checklists, and other recordkeeping resources.

For more information and to register, click here.

 

Tips and Tools for a Successful Practice

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Tuesday, October 29, 2024

This full-day webinar is an excellent opportunity for solo practitioners and new lawyers to obtain ethical guidance and practical information regarding client relationships, conflicts of interest, fee agreements, avoiding discipline, and technology.

For more information and to register, click here.

 

Ethical Perspective—Articles from the Michigan Bar Journal

Month/Year Author and Title (Note: all columns dated October 2021 and before are PDFs.)
November '23 Alecia Chandler—IOLTA vs non-IOLTA: Where to hold client funds
October '23 Robinjit K. Eagleson—Scam alert: What to do
September '23 Katherine S. Gardner—Addressing the unauthorized practice of law in the courtroom
May '23 Robinjit K. Eagleson—The banking crisis and lawyer trust accounts
March '23 Joe Rivet and Alecia M. Chandler—The reality of fraud
February '23 Robinjit K. Eagleson—Looking back at 2022: Ethics news
December '22 Robinjit K. Eagleson—The ethics in publicity
November '22 Alecia M. Chandler—Embrace the right to a second opinion
October '22 Michael S. Leib and Kenneth M. Mogill—The new MRPC 1.19
September '22 Hon. Christopher S. Ninomiya—Pernicious politics: It's time to bench Partisan politics from the bench
July/August '22 Alecia M. Chandler—The ins and outs of the lawyer trust account
June '22 Alecia M. Chandler—Stop sending subpoenas to attorneys for protected information
May '22 Robinjit K. Eagleson—Duty to court vs. duty to client: Balancing MRPC 1.6 and 3.3
April '22 Robinjit K. Eagleson—Media ethics: Think before you post: The line between accuracy and sensationalism
March '22 Robinjit K. Eagleson—The helpline helps
February '22 Robinjit K. Eagleson—Addressing the gray areas
December '21 Alecia M. Chandler & Robinjit K. Eagleson—A guide to locating ethics resources
October '21 Edward J. Hood—Welcome Guidance on a Lawyer’s Duties to Prospective Clients

 

Succession Planning

Ethics Opinions

Issued in 2024

JI-156 Ethical considerations for judicial officers to attend law firm events.

Issued in 2023

RI-389 Ethical Guidance for Prosecutors when Charging within their Office

JI-155 Ethical Duty to Maintain Technological Competence Including Artificial Intelligence

RI-388 Ethical Duties to Safeguard Digital Property

RI-387 Adhering to Ethical Rules for Motions to Withdraw

RI-386 Ethical Representation of a Client Under a Disability.

JI-154 Eliciting of Information from Counsel to Adjudicate a Motion to Withdraw

Issued in 2022

RI-385 An attorney may not utilize a keyword advertising campaign that involves using the name of another attorney, law firm or attorney’s or law firm’s tradenames without the express consent of the other attorney or law firm.

RI-384 Lawyers and law firms must ensure that all funds maintained within an IOLTA are accounted for.

JI-153 Disclosure to All Parties of Prior Relationship and Child in Common

JI-152 Judge Participating on Election Planning Committee

RI-383 Supervision of Lawyers in Legal Services Programs by Lawyer or Non-Lawyer Supervisors

JI-151 Simultaneous Employment as Quasi Judicial Officer and Law Clerk

R-26 Responding to Negative Online Reviews

Issued in 2021

RI-382 Ethical Implications for Michigan Attorneys Interacting with Out-of-State Counsel

JI-150 Referral Fees Earned Prior to Assuming the Bench

Issued in 2020

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

JI-146 A judge, judge’s family member, or staff member may accept gifts that are considered “ordinary social hospitality” but should not accept any other gifts from persons who may appear before the judge.

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

 

Ethics Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

General Attorney FAQs

Cybersecurity FAQs

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

IOLTA FAQs

Judicial Campaigns Ethics FAQs

Judicial Ethics FAQs

Judicial Social Media 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

The State Bar of Michigan’s Ethics Helpline is reserved for attorneys and judges to discuss ethical issues.

  • If you are looking to find an attorney, please contact the Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 968-0738.
  • If you would like to report an individual regarding the unauthorized practice of law, please contact the Unauthorized Practice of Law division. Contact information is found on its website.
  • If you need other assistance from the SBM, please contact the main line at (517) 346-6300.
  • Complaints regarding attorneys must be directed to the Attorney Grievance Commission. Information on how to file a complaint and contact information for the Attorney Grievance Commission may be found here.
  • Complaints regarding judges must be directed to the Judicial Tenure Commission. Information on how to file a complaint and contact information for the Judicial Tenure Commission may be found here.

Members may contact the SBM Ethics Helpline at (877) 558-4760 to receive verbal, non-binding ethics advice from a staff attorney regarding their own prospective conduct. All calls and e-mails to the Ethics Helpline are confidential and must not be recorded as records and information of the Ethics Program of the State Bar are confidential pursuant to State Bar Rule 19.

  1. Lawyers and judges who call the helpline are required to leave a voicemail containing their full name, telephone number, P number, and a short description of the inquiry. Calls are generally returned within two business days in the order they are received.
  2. Calls to the ethics helpline are confidential and must not be recorded.
  3. Prior to calling the Ethics Helpline, lawyers should review the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct, Ethics Opinions, Frequently Asked Questions, and Ethics Resources.
  4. All ethics advice provided by staff attorneys is nonbinding. Staff attorneys will not provide a definitive answer due to the limited information received.
  5. Staff counsel will NOT advise on the following:
  6. If you maintain malpractice insurance, you may wish to contact your malpractice insurance carrier’s helpline for assistance as well.

Members may also email ethics@michbar.org. A staff attorney will respond via email or telephone and 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