No attorney wants to leave their clients high and dry – especially due to a sudden or unexpected event that leaves them unable to practice law. To avoid this scenario, the Michigan Supreme Court recently enacted Rule 21 of the Rules Concerning the State Bar of Michigan (read the order establishing the rule in full here). The purpose of Rule 21 is to protect clients’ interests if an attorney can no longer represent them due to death, disability, discipline, incarceration, or other unforeseen personal tragedy.
Rule 21(A) requires that, as part of their 2023-2024 license renewal, all active private practice attorneys in Michigan must:
- Name a person with knowledge of their practice; and
- Designate an interim administrator
— or —
Enroll in the State Bar of Michigan Interim Administrator Program
Are you interested in serving as an interim administrator? Here are some things you should know:
- A designated 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.
- A designated interim administrator’s duties include, among other things, taking custody of files and records, control of accounts, reviewing papers and files to identify pending matters and quickly notifying clients of the affected attorney of the administrator’s appointment.
- A designated interim administrator’s responsibilities do not begin until the private practice attorney becomes unable to practice and the designated interim administrator is officially called to serve.
In addition, there are a few important ethical obligations to keep in mind. Importantly, the appointment of the interim administrator does not automatically create an attorney-client relationship between the interim administrator and the affected attorney’s clients. But the attorney-client privilege does apply to communications between the interim administrator and the affected attorney’s clients.
Unlike other jurisdictions with similar rules, Michigan’s rule mandates that an interim administrator obtains and retains professional liability insurance. The purpose of this mandate is unclear. It may lead to confusion regarding the scope of an interim administrator’s duties, since the rule expressly states that appointment as an interim administrator does not create an attorney-client relationship. An attorney-client relationship is typically necessary for professional-liability claims against lawyers.
For further information about Rule 21, including how to designate and serve as an interim administrator, please visit:
- MCR Subchapter 9.300 – Interim Administrators