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Designate your inventory lawyer today!

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The easiest way to designate an inventory lawyer is to fill out the online Inventory Lawyer Form which is accessible through the login access button to the member portal at FloridaBar.org

The Florida Bar entrance sign, which includes the seal in black with gold lettering, with brick pillars on either side, with a flowering white fringe tree in full bloom.To protect clients of a lawyer who unexpectedly dies or otherwise becomes unable to practice, the Florida Supreme Court requires members who practice in-state to designate an inventory lawyer.

Have you designated an inventory lawyer, yet?

If not, why not do it now?

The easiest way to designate an inventory lawyer is to fill out the online Inventory Lawyer Form which is accessible through the login access button to the member portal at FloridaBar.org.

Here are three reasons to review your inventory lawyer designation today.

• You are required to designate an inventory lawyer by Rule 1-3.8(e). The only exceptions are for members not practicing in Florida and for any portion of the member’s practice as an employee of a governmental entity.

• Your clients need to be protected if you suddenly become incapable of practicing law due to accident or illness. Each year, The Florida Bar has to open inventory cases when a lawyer’s sudden unavailability jeopardizes clients. A prudent lawyer will assure that someone with adequate knowledge about their legal practice is ready to step in if needed.

• Your interests need to be protected. Your law practice is an important asset and if a designated inventory lawyer has adequate knowledge in advance, steps can be taken to protect this asset for your future as well as that of your loved ones.

According to a staff report, the Bar opens an average of 45 inventory cases per year and each of the Bar’s five branches spends approximately 120 hours per year searching for inventory lawyers.

Given that about 30% of the Bar’s active members are sole practitioners, and that some 45% of the Bar population is 50 or older, the problem is expected to expand.

Attorneys must designate an inventory lawyer

Rule 1-3.8 requires every member to designate an inventory lawyer and the best and easiest way to designate an inventory lawyer is to do it online at FloridaBar.org. If you are not sure if you have established an inventory lawyer you can visit Floridabar.org and then login to the member portal by using the green Login button, the form is accessible from the navigation panel on the left under additional links. You will also be able to see if you have been designated as an inventory lawyer by some other member.

Inventory lawyers 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 lawyer has the responsibility of notifying all clients that their lawyer is no longer able to represent them. The inventory lawyer also 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 lawyers will be contacted when the need arises and will be asked to serve. Because circumstances change, the designated inventory lawyer is not obligated to serve. Inventory lawyers usually are not directly compensated but may receive reimbursement for some actual costs, such as postage, incurred while carrying out the duties of an inventory lawyer.

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 lawyer.

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 lawyer.

Here are answers to common questions about the rule:

Who is not required to designate an inventory lawyer?

A Florida Bar member who lives in another state and does not practice at all in Florida is not required to designate an inventory lawyer, even if the nonresident member is eligible to practice law in Florida.

Members are not required to designate in regard to the portion of their practice as an employee of a government entity. Florida judges and other members who are precluded from practicing law by statute or rule also 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.

Who may be designated as an inventory lawyer?

Only other members of The Florida Bar may be designated as an inventory lawyer.

Designated inventory lawyers 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 nonresident members of the Bar may be designated as inventory lawyers.

How are inventory lawyers appointed?

When the need for an inventory lawyer arises, Bar counsel will verify that the designated inventory lawyer is eligible to practice law in Florida and contact the designated inventory lawyer. If the designee agrees to serve, Bar counsel will direct them to the inventory manual and, if necessary, will assist in filing a petition with the local circuit court for appointment of the inventory lawyer and securing an order of appointment.

How do I designate an inventory lawyer?

The easiest way is to visit the Bar’s website at floridabar.org. Go to “Member Portal” and look for the “Inventory Lawyer” link and fill out the online form.

How often must I make a designation?

Once a designation is made another designation is not required unless the originally designated inventory lawyer is no longer willing or able to serve. In such event designation of another inventory lawyer may be made online.

Is the requirement to designate an inventory lawyer applicable to government lawyers?

No. However, if a government lawyer has a private practice, a designation is required for that portion of the practice.

RULE 1-3.8 RIGHT TO INVENTORY

(a)  Appointment; Grounds; Authority. Whenever a lawyer is suspended, disbarred, becomes a delinquent member, abandons a practice, disappears, dies, or suffers an involuntary leave of absence due to military service, catastrophic illness, or injury, and no partner, personal representative, or other responsible party capable of conducting the lawyer’s affairs is known to exist, the appropriate circuit court, on proper proof of the fact, may appoint a lawyer or lawyers to inventory the files of that lawyer (“the subject lawyer”) and to act as necessary to protect the interests of the subject lawyer’s clients.

(b)  Maintenance of Confidentiality. Any lawyer appointed to inventory a subject lawyer’s files must not disclose any information contained in the inventoried files without the consent of the client to whom the files relate except as necessary to carry out the order of the court that appointed the lawyer to make the inventory. Lawyers appointed to inventory files may seek a protective order from the appropriate court or take other action necessary to protect confidential information of the subject lawyer’s clients.

(c)  Status and Purpose of Inventory Lawyer. Nothing in this rule creates the duties or obligations of a lawyer-client, fiduciary, or other relationship between a lawyer appointed to inventory a subject lawyer’s files and the subject lawyer’s clients except for those duties and obligations specifically set forth in this rule and those duties and obligations inherent in the specific tasks undertaken by the inventory lawyer. The purpose of appointing an inventory lawyer is to avoid prejudice to the subject lawyer’s clients and, as a secondary result, prevent or reduce claims against the subject lawyer.

(d)  Designation of Inventory Lawyer. Each member of the Bar who practices law in Florida must designate another member of The Florida Bar who has agreed to serve as inventory lawyer under this rule except that no designation is required with respect to any portion of the member’s practice as an employee of a governmental entity. When the services of an inventory lawyer become necessary, an authorized representative of The Florida Bar will contact the designated member and determine the member’s current willingness to serve. The designated member is not under any obligation to serve as inventory lawyer.

(e)  Payment of Inventory Lawyer. The Florida Bar may pay a reasonable 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.

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