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Lawyers must designate an inventory attorney

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The Florida Bar Gold SealHere are three reasons to review your inventory attorney designation today.

1. You are required to designate an inventory attorney 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.

2. 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 attorney will assure that someone with adequate knowledge about their legal practice is ready to step in if needed.

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

Below is an updated article from the 2006 Bar News on this subject. For more information, go to LegalFuel at www.LegalFuel.com.

Lawyers must designate an inventory attorney

To protect clients of an attorney who unexpectedly dies or otherwise becomes unable to practice, the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar provide that members who practice in-state must designate an inventory attorney.

Rule 1-3.8 requires every member to designate an inventory attorney and the best and easiest way to designate an inventory attorney is to do it online at FloridaBar.org. No designation is required with respect to any portion of a member’s practice as an employee of a governmental entity.

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 notifying all clients that their lawyer is no longer able to represent them. The inventory attorney 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 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. Inventory attorneys are not directly compensated but may receive reimbursement for actual costs incurred while carrying out the duties of an inventory attorney.

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.

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 or if they represent governmental entities) are required to designate an inventory attorney.

Here are answers to common questions about the rule:

Who is not 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 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 attorney?

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 nonresident members of the Bar may be designated as inventory attorneys.

How are inventory attorneys appointed?

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 contact the designated inventory attorney. 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 attorney and securing an order of appointment.

How do I designate an inventory attorney?

The easiest way is to visit the Bar’s website at floridabar.org. Go to “Member Portal” and look for the “Inventory Attorney” 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 attorney is no longer willing or able to serve. In such event designation of another inventory attorney may be made online.

Is the requirement to designate an inventory attorney 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 an attorney 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 attorney’s affairs is known to exist, the appropriate circuit court, upon proper proof of the fact, may appoint an attorney or attorneys to inventory the files of the subject attorney ( hereinafter referred to as “the subject attorney”) and to take such action as seems indicated to protect the interests of clients of the subject attorney. ( b) Maintenance of Attorney-Client Confidences. Any attorney so appointed shall not disclose any information contained in files so inventoried without the consent of the client to whom such file relates except as necessary to carry out the order of the court that appointed the attorney to make the inventory. (c) Status and Purpose of Inventory Attorney. Nothing herein creates an attorney and client, fiduciary, or other relationship between the inventory attorney and the subject attorney. The purpose of appointing an inventory attorney is to avoid prejudice to clients of the subject attorney and, as a secondary result, prevent or reduce claims against the subject attorney for such prejudice as may otherwise occur. (d) Rules of Procedure. The Florida Rules of Civil Procedure are applicable to proceedings under this rule. (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; provided, however, 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 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. Amended July 23, 1992, effective Jan. 1, 1993 (605 So.2d 252); July 17, 1997 (697 So.2d 115); Sept. 24, 1998, effective Oct. 1. 1998 (718 So.2d 1179); May 20, 2004 (875 So.2d 448); Oct. 6, 2005, effective Jan. 1, 2006 (916 So.2d 655); amended Nov. 19, 2009 (SC08-1890) (34 Fla.L.Weekly S628a), effective February 1, 2010.