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Frequently Asked Questions


For Private Practice Attorneys

Am I considered a private practice attorney in Michigan?

A private practice attorney is an attorney who has one or more clients for whom they provide legal services that require a Michigan law license. For purposes of mandatory interim administrator planning only:

For example, you ARE considered a “private practice attorney” if

  • You only represent debtors in bankruptcy cases, and you represent clients in Eastern or Western District of Michigan Bankruptcy Court.
  • You exclusively practice immigration law and your law practice is based in Michigan.
  • You are retired, but active, and represent one or more clients per year on matters that require a Michigan law license.

For example, you are NOT considered a “private practice attorney” if

  • You are licensed in Michigan and Florida, but only represent Florida clients on non-Michigan law issues.
  • You are active, but retired, and do not represent clients.
  • You are active, but solely act as an intermediary in alternative dispute resolution matters as a mediator, arbitrator, or otherwise. (You are strongly encouraged, but not required, to have a plan in place.)
  • You practice a very specified area of federal law, in which no representation involves your Michigan law license or clients based in Michigan. For example, you practice federal aviation law and represent large corporations across the world, but none require your Michigan law license per se.
  • You are in-house counsel, a judicial officer, or employed by a governmental agency.

I am a part of a law firm with one or more additional MI attorneys other than myself, do I still need to designate an interim administrator?

Yes, Rule 21 requirements apply to all private practitioners and not just solo practitioners. Your designated interim administrator may be your law firm, one of the attorneys who are a part of your law firm, or an outside attorney or law firm. Discussions within your law firm should happen prior to completing the designation to see what option will work best for your firm.

Do I need to have professional liability insurance to accept an interim administrator nomination?

Professional Liability Insurance buttonNo. You may accept a nomination to be an interim administrator without professional liability insurance. You may also join the List of Attorney’s Willing to Serve as Interim Administrator without having coverage. Professional liability insurance is required only when serving as an interim administrator to cover the actions as an appointed Interim Administrator (MCR 9.315).

When a petition is filed for appointment of an interim administrator in the circuit court, professional liability insurance is required. The recommended Interim Administrator will either need to provide proof of professional liability insurance or proof that the affected attorney has professional liability insurance that will cover the acts of the court appointed Interim Administrator.

NOTE: Professional liability insurance that covers the acts of an interim administrator is not necessarily malpractice insurance, though many malpractice insurance policies cover the acts of an interim administrator.

If I designate my law firm as my interim administrator, does my law firm need to be appointed through the circuit court to serve as interim administrator if I become an affected attorney?

Probably not. Pursuant to MCR 9.303, the law firm of an affected attorney may continue to represent an affected attorney’s clients without circuit court appointment if all the following factors are met:

  1. The firm is the affected attorney designated interim administrator;
  2. The firm as at least one active Michigan attorney in good standing capable of competently representing the affected attorney’s clients; AND
  3. Each affected client gives express written consent to the representation. Copies of signed consents much be maintained with the client file.

Moreover, circuit court appointment is only required if necessary to protect the interests of the affected attorney’s clients or interest of the affected attorney. Therefore, if the clients remain with the firm, the financial accounts are accessible, and there is no other need for appointment of an interim administration, circuit court appointment is not required.

Is circuit court appointment always necessary if I become unable to practice law?

Not necessarily. Appointment of an interim administrator may happen if an attorney becomes an affected attorney as defined in MCR 9.301(A), however, appointment through the circuit court must be necessary to protect the interests of the affected attorney’s clients or the interests of the affected attorney.

For example, an attorney has retired from practice but is the custodian of former client files. An interim administrator could act to return those files without needing circuit appointment to do so. Another example is an attorney with a complete succession plan that includes the necessary components to provide for a seamless transition to a successor attorney.

See MCRs 9.305(A)(1) and 9.303 for more information.

I am retired and still an active attorney, but I only take on a few cases per year. Do I need to designate someone to be my interim administrator?

Yes. The rules require every private practice attorney in Michigan to designate an interim administrator and name a person with knowledge of the practice.

I work in multiple practice areas. Do I need to designate more than one interim administrator?

No. You can only designate one attorney who would serve as your interim administrator.

Does an interim administrator take on my law cases?

Interim administrators do not automatically assume the practice or become your clients’ attorney. Under MCR 9.303 and 9.305, interim administrators will assist in obtaining coverage for clients or refer cases to other attorneys as needed. However, a private practice attorney and their designated interim administrator may develop an agreement for outlining additional rights and responsibilities of each party.

My long-term assistant is not an attorney, but knows everything about the office. May I designate my assistant as my interim administrator?

No. Interim administrators must be an attorney or law firm. However, your assistant is the perfect example of a “person with knowledge” who would work with the interim administrator to effectively administer the duties required of the interim administrator.

How long do I have to get this done?

Private practice attorneys are encouraged to begin the process of identifying an attorney to be their designated interim administrator as soon as possible so that they will have all agreements in place prior to the launch of license renewal in September 2023.

Attorneys will be required to nominate an interim administrator or enroll in the State Bar’s Interim Administrator Program when they renew their license for the 2023-2024 Bar year, which begins October 1. License renewals will begin in September, and the deadline to complete license renewals is November 30.

Who can serve as an 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). An interim administrator must be a Michigan attorney in good standing and must have professional liability insurance that covers conduct performed as an interim administrator. See SBR 21(D) and MCR 9.315.

Once a private practice attorney nominates an attorney or firm to serve as interim administrator if needed, that nominated attorney or firm must confirm their willingness to be the private practice attorney’s designated interim administrator. The State Bar of Michigan is required under Rule 21 to verify the willingness of designated interim administrators to serve.

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 the fee?

If a private practice attorney designates a law firm or another active Michigan attorney in good standing to serve as their interim administrator, there is no fee.

If a private practice attorney is enrolled in the State Bar of Michigan’s Interim Administrator Program, instead of designating their own interim administrator, the cost is $60 annually. This fee is set by the Michigan Supreme Court. The fee will be payable during the attorney’s annual license renewal.

What happens if the attorney I nominated declines to be my designated interim administrator?

If a nominated interim administrator declines the designation, the private practice attorney who nominated them will be notified via e-mail and will have the ability to nominate a different interim administrator. The newly nominated interim administrator will be sent an email to confirm their willingness to be designated interim administrator.

How often do I need to designate an interim administrator?

Once you nominate an interim administrator and they accept the designation, you will be asked to simply confirm your previous designation as part of your annual license renewal. So long as neither the private practice attorney nor the designated interim administrator ends the relationship, it can continue indefinitely.

You have the ability to update your designated interim administrator at any time. A designated interim administrator also has the ability to no longer serve as an attorney’s designated interim administrator.

I don’t know whom to nominate as my designated interim attorney. Can you help?

The State Bar of Michigan will maintain a list of attorneys who are willing to serve as interim administrators and accept nominations as designated interim attorneys. This list will become available prior to the start of license renewal in September 2023. See also: I am open to accepting more nominations as designated interim administrator. How do I add my name to the list that will be maintained by the State Bar of Michigan?

FOR DESIGNATED INTERIM ADMINISTRATORS

An attorney has asked to designate me as their interim administrator. What are my responsibilities if I agree to serve?

Designated interim administrators have no official duties unless the private practice attorney becomes unable to practice and they are called into service as interim administrator. An interim administrator must be a Michigan attorney in good standing and must have professional liability insurance that covers conduct performed as an interim administrator.

Under MCR 9.307: Duties and Powers of the Interim Administrator, the general duties of an interim administrator are:

  1. Take custody of the files and records. 
  2. Take control of accounts, including lawyer trust accounts and operating accounts. 
  3. Review the files and other papers to identify any pending matters. 
  4. Promptly notify all clients represented by the affected attorney in pending matters of the appointment of the interim administrator. Notification shall be made in writing, where practicable. 
  5. Promptly notify all courts and counsel involved in any pending matters, to the extent they can be reasonably identified, of the appointment of an interim administrator for the affected attorney.  Notification shall be made in writing, where practicable. 
  6. Deliver the files, funds, and other property belonging to the affected attorney’s clients pursuant to the clients’ directions, subject to the right to retain copies of such files or assert a retaining or charging lien against such files, money, or other property to the extent permitted by law. 
  7. Take steps to protect the interests of the clients, the public, and, to the extent possible and not inconsistent with the protection of the affected attorney’s clients, to protect the interests of the affected attorney. 
  8. Comply with the terms of the agreement between the affected attorney and the interim administrator. 

Private practice attorneys and their designated interim administrator also may develop their own agreements regarding the duties and expectations of their interim administrator. For more information, read the Michigan Supreme Court order (ADM File No. 2020-15) creating Rule 21 here

Will I be paid when acting as an interim administrator?

Interim administrators, unless otherwse determined by an agreement between the private practice attorney and their designated interim administrator, are entitled to reasonable compensation for the performance of their duties and reimbursement for actual and reasonable costs incurred in connection with performing their duties. See MCR 9.313.

Can I be the designated interim administrator for more than one attorney?

Yes. You may serve as more than one attorney’s designated interim administrator. Keep in mind that you will only need to serve as interim administrator if the private practice attorney becomes unable to practice law. You will be able to update and change your agreement to be designated interim administrator at any time.

I am retired/semi-retired, but still an active attorney. Can I serve as an interim administrator?

YES! Any active Michigan attorney in good standing may serve as interim administrator, though insurance is required. See MCR 9.315.

How do I confirm my willingness to be an attorney’s designated interim administrator?

When an attorney nominates you as their interim administrator, you will receive an e-mail from the State Bar of Michigan notifying you and giving you the option to accept or decline to be the attorney’s designated interim administrator. Notification will be sent to the State Bar and to the nominating attorney when you accept or decline. Until a nominated attorney confirms their willingness to be the private practice attorney’s designated interim administrator, the private practice attorney has NOT fulfilled the requirements of Rule 21.

NOTE: Only accept if you are willing to act as interim administrator for the private practice attorney who nominated you or if you are authorized to accept the designation on behalf of the law firm. If you are not authorized to accept the designation on behalf of the law firm, you must decline. When you respond, you will have the opportunity to identify the appropriate authorized attorney for your firm.

How long do I have to accept serving as an attorney’s designated interim administrator?

Ideally, you should accept or decline as quickly as possible. Courtesy reminders will be e-mailed to the private practice attorney and the attorney they nominated as their designated interim administrator until the nomination is accepted or declined.

How long will I serve as an attorney’s designated interim administrator?

So long as neither the private practice attorney nor the designated interim administrator ends the relationship, it can continue indefinitely. Designated interim administrators can update their status and end the relationship at any time.

I am open to accepting more nominations as designated interim administrator: How do I add my name to the list that will be maintained by the State Bar of Michigan?

You may submit your name, address, judicial circuit(s), and practice area(s) in which you are willing to serve as an interim administrator. Sign-ups will begin in 2023. You will also be asked if you are willing to serve as an interim administrator as part of the State Bar of Michigan’s Interim Administrator Program.

RECRUITING ATTORNEYS FOR SBM’S INTERIM ADMINISTRATOR PROGRAM

What is the State Bar of Michigan’s Interim Administrator Program?

As required by Rule 21, the State Bar of Michigan has created a safety net program for attorneys who do not designate their own 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.

How can I be considered for appointment as an interim administrator as part of the State Bar of Michigan’s Interim Administrator Program?

You may submit your name, address, judicial circuit(s), and practice area(s) in which you are willing to serve as an interim administrator. Sign-ups will begin in 2023. You will also be asked if you wish to add your name to a list of attorneys willing to accept more nominations as designated interim administrator.

If I express interest in being appointed an interim administrator as part of the State Bar of Michigan’s Interim Administrator Program, will I be required to serve if I am called?

No. The State Bar of Michigan will work with interested attorneys to match one who is able and willing to serve as interim administrator with the affected private practice attorney. Attorneys are not required to accept a State Bar of Michigan appointment of interim administrator.

CONTACT US

Where can I find more information?

For more information, email IAP@michbar.org or call us at (517) 346-6355.