Information Regarding Inventory Attorneys
The Supreme Court has agreed with a Florida Bar proposal to require certain members of the Bar to designate another member to serve as an inventory attorney in the event there is a need. The rule amendment is effective January 1, 2006. The purpose of the amendment is to provide for a means to protect the interests of clients if their originally retained counsel cannot or will not do so.
Inventory attorneys take possession of the files of a member who dies, disappears, is disbarred or suspended, becomes delinquent, or suffers involuntary leave of absence due to military service and no other responsible party capable of conducting the member’s affairs is known. The inventory attorney has the responsibility of identifying clients in need of services and getting notice to the clients of such needs. The inventory attorney may give the file to a client for finding substitute counsel; may make referrals to substitute counsel with the agreement of the client; or may accept representation of the client, but is not required to do so.
Designated inventory attorneys will be contacted when the need arises and will be asked to serve. Because circumstances change, the designated inventory attorney is not obligated to serve.
Only those members who practice in Florida (regardless of where they live) must make a designation. Members who are eligible to practice in Florida, but who do not do so are not required to designate an inventory attorney. Members who are employed by a governmental entity are not required to designate an inventory attorney.
Lawyers who practice in Florida (regardless of whether they reside in the state) even if they have only one client (such as in-house counsel) are required to designate an inventory attorney.
A Florida Bar member who lives in another state and does not practice at all in Florida is not required to designate an inventory attorney, even if the non-resident member is eligible to practice law in Florida.
Florida judges and other members who are precluded from practicing law by statute or rule are not required to designate.
Florida resident members engaged in other occupations, even if eligible to practice law in Florida, are not required to designate.
While members of The Florida Bar who are working as in-house counsel must designate an inventory attorney, individuals certified as Authorized House Counsel do not have to designate an inventory attorney.
Members of The Florida Bar who have chosen inactive status do not have to designate an inventory attorney.
No designation is required with respect to any portion of the member’s practice as an employee of a governmental entity.
Only other members of The Florida Bar may be designated as an inventory attorney.
Designated inventory attorneys must be eligible to practice law in Florida. They are not required to be practicing, only that they be eligible to do so.
Resident and non-resident members of the bar may be designated as inventory attorneys.
When the need for an inventory attorney arises bar counsel will verify that the designated inventory attorney is eligible to practice law in Florida and shall contact the designated inventory attorney. If the designee agrees to serve bar counsel will file a petition with the local circuit court for appointment of the inventory attorney and secure an order of appointment.
Once a designation is made another designation is not required unless the originally designated inventory attorney is no longer willing to serve. In such event designation of another inventory attorney may be made.
(e) Designation of Inventory Attorney. Each member of the bar who practices law in Florida shall designate another member of The Florida Bar who has agreed to serve as inventory attorney under this rule. When the services of an inventory attorney become necessary, an authorized representative of The Florida Bar shall contact the designated member and determine the member’s current willingness to serve. The designated member shall not be under any obligation to serve as inventory attorney.
I am a member of The Florida Bar practicing in Florida. I have tried to obtain someone willing to serve as my designated inventory attorney, but I am not able to do so. What do I do?
You cannot compel someone to do something that they are not required to do. If, after reasonable efforts, you are unable to obtain a volunteer, contact the Bar and relate those facts. You will receive a response acknowledging your efforts, requesting you to make periodic new attempts to designate, and advising you that no enforcement action will be undertaken, based on your representations.
You may call the Lawyer Regulation Department at 800-342-8060, ext. 5839; or write to Department of Lawyer Regulation, The Florida Bar, 651 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300.