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.
Lawyer Trust Accounts Seminar: Management Principles & Recordkeeping Resources
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
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 4, 2023
Tuesday, October 17, 2023
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
Issued in 2023
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.
Issued in 2019
JI-148 A judge supporting charitable organizations on social media.
JI-147 Judicial officers’ and candidates’ campaign activity on social media account.
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 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.
Ethics Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
General Attorney FAQs
Disqualified Lawyers FAQs—lawyers who are suspended, disbarred, inactive, or have resigned from membership
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.
- 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.
- Calls to the ethics helpline are confidential and must not be recorded.
- 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.
- All ethics advice provided by staff attorneys is nonbinding. Staff attorneys will not provide a definitive answer due to the limited information received.
- Staff counsel will NOT advise on the following:
- If you maintain malpractice insurance, you may wish to contact your malpractice insurance carrier’s helpline for assistance as well.
Members may also email email@example.com. 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.
Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct
Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct
- SBM Ethics Guidebook: Changing Firms-Ethical Responsibilities for Lawyers and Law Firms
- SBM Ethics Guidebook: Navigating Ethical Complexities-Child Protective Proceedings for L-Gals
- Conflict of Interest Flowchart
- I’ve Received the Dreaded Letter from the Attorney Grievance Commission: Now What? by Michael V. Goetz, June 2020
- Cybersecurity for Attorneys: Addressing the Legal and Ethical Duties by David G. Ries, November 2019
- Safeguarding Client Data: Attorneys’ Legal and Ethical Duties by David G. Ries, November 2019
- Responding to Requests for Copies from Former Clients by Dawn Evans, March 2012
- A Discussion of Trust Accounts for Michigan Attorneys by Linda Rexer, Danon D. Goodrum-Garland, and Nkrumah Johnson-Wynn, March 2009
- Planning for an Orderly Transition by Dawn Evans, September 2009
- How to Identify and Avoid Conflicts of Interest by Dawn M. Evans, February 2011
- Attorney IOLTA Guidelines Brochure
- Sudden Death or Disability: Is Your Practice—and Your Family—Ready for the Worst by Catherine M. O'Connell
- Archived from the Michigan Bar Journal 1997-2002
- Social Networking and Judges by Lorie Savin, October 2011
- Fee Collection by Lien Quick-Reference Chart
- Record Retention Kit
- Trust Account References
- Role of Non-Lawyers in Law Practice guidelines for utilization of legal assistant
- Opinions concerning Unauthorized Practice of Law
- Standing Committee on Professional Ethics
- Standing Committee on Judicial Ethics