Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss recent Florida Bar Board of Governors (BOG) approval of proposed amendments to Florida Bar Rule 1-3.8, Right to Inventory, which would authorize payments to designated inventory attorneys to assist and wind up law practices of lawyers who die, disappear, or are otherwise unable to practice law. The inventory attorney is also permitted to take over the representation of the previous lawyer’s clients if those clients consent.
The BOG voted to support the BOG Disciplinary Procedure Committee’s proposal at its December 6, 2019 meeting in Orlando. The proposed rule revision has been under consideration since 2017 and had a first reading at the BOG’s December 2018 meeting; however, it was deferred for further review.
Florida Bar Rule 1-3.8 currently requires Florida Bar members to designate an inventory attorney to wind down the practices of lawyers who die, disappear, or are otherwise unable to practice law. According to a Bar staff report, the Bar opened an average of 41.4 inventory cases each year during the past five years and each of the Bar’s five branch offices spend approximately 120 hours per year searching for inventory attorneys.
Under the proposed Bar rule revisions, an inventory lawyer who pursues payment for work performed would be required to submit an application detailing the work performed along with other information and request the payment. The Executive Director of the Florida Bar would set the amount of payment with the approval of the BOG and the Bar would administer the payments. The initial cost of the payments to inventory attorneys was estimated to be $100,000.00; however, the costs are expected to rise.
Proposed Rule 1-3.8(e) states:
(e) Payment of Inventory Lawyer. The Florida Bar may pay a fee set by the bar’s executive director as approved by the board of governors and within the bar’s annual budget for that year to a lawyer who agrees to conduct an inventory under this rule. Payment by The Florida Bar to an inventory lawyer will be made only with prior approval by the bar, on an application approved by the bar, and under parameters set by the bar.
The proposed Rule 1-3.8 amendments will be sent to the Florida Supreme Court for final review and potential implementation.
Bottom line: This Bar Rule amendment is designed to address issues related to inventory attorneys and pay them for their work, presumably to encourage lawyers to become inventory attorneys. I will follow this proposed Bar Rule amendment and keep you advised.
Be careful out there.
Disclaimer: this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2999 Alt. 19, Suite A
Palm Harbor, Florida 34683
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670