Rule 21 requires all active private practice attorneys in Michigan as part of their 2023-2024 license renewal to:
All private practice attorneys are encouraged to immediately begin making arrangements with another attorney or law firm to be their designated interim administrator. Starting this summer, attorneys will be able to nominate their designated interim attorney through the State Bar of Michigan’s online Member Area.
There is no fee for private practice attorneys who designate their own interim administrator. Those who enroll in SBM’s Interim Administrator Program will pay an annual fee of $60 when they renew their license. License renewals for the 2023-2024 Bar year begin in September.
Rule 21 does not apply to attorneys who are not in private practice in Michigan.
Read the Michigan Supreme Court order (ADM File No. 2020-15) creating Rule 21 here. The order also amends Rule 2, amends MCR9.119, and adds subchapter Rule 9.300, including MCR 9.301-9.317.
What is an interim administrator?
An interim administrator is a licensed attorney in Michigan who would take on certain duties on behalf of a private practice attorney if they become unable to practice law, temporarily or permanently. Interim administrators would take on duties, such as securing privileged documents, notifying clients, returning funds and files, and notifying courts on pending matters. Designated interim administrators have no official duties unless the private practice attorney becomes unable to practice law, and the designated attorney begins serving as interim administrator.
An interim administrator must be an active Michigan attorney in good standing or a law firm with at least one active Michigan attorney in good standing (other than the attorney nominating the firm as the interim administrator).
Instead of designating an interim administrator, private practice attorneys can participate in the State Bar of Michigan’s Interim Administrator Program. For an annual fee of $60, the State Bar of Michigan will match an interim administrator to the participating attorney if an interim administrator is needed.
What is a person with knowledge?
A person with knowledge is someone who knows the location of the attorneys professional paper and electronic files and other security protocols required to access the attorneys professional records and files. This person can be the same individual designated to serve as interim administrator. However, the person with knowledge does not have to be a licensed attorney in Michigan; the designated interim administrator does.
Why is Rule 21 necessary?
This requirement protects clients, attorneys’ interest in their law practices, and the judicial system in the event that a private practice attorney becomes unable to represent their clients because of death, disability, discipline, disappearance, or incarceration.
As an attorney in Michigan, you have an ethical obligation to protect your clients’ interests — even in the event of an unforeseen personal tragedy. (See RI-374) Without a succession plan in place, your clients could be left with little to no guidance on what to do. Without an interim administrator plan, clients can suffer severe consequences, such as missing filing deadlines or court hearings in pending cases, being unable to locate vital documents and pleadings for their case, losing the right to appeal, or being unable to recover funds or property entrusted to their attorney.
You need to protect your practice and your clients. Designating an interim administrator is the first step to ensure that your practice has a succession plan in place. You wouldn’t leave your family without a will; don’t leave your practice without a succession plan. For more information, see the State Bar of Michigan’s planning resource “Planning Ahead Handbook" and other resources in our Practice Management Resource Center.
State Bar of Michigan
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Lansing, MI 48933-2012