Inventory Attorney Program
The phone rings. It’s someone looking for files, documents, or personal property from an attorney who is missing or deceased. While you may think this is rare, in fact, the CBA receives such calls practically every week. And this is not just a local problem – it happens across the state and across the country. At one point in 2014, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel in Columbus was storing 2,299 boxes of client files recovered from the offices of missing or deceased Ohio attorneys. Apparently, attorneys all too often are unprepared for what would happen to their practice in the event they become even temporarily unavailable to serve their clients. Now would be a good time to take steps to ensure that your clients’ interests are protected, even in your absence.
The first step which we are proposing is modest, but critical. To whom do we refer the caller? Sometimes, with luck, we can identify someone who was associated with the now missing, incapacitated or deceased attorney. A staff member might recall a connection, or we might find a clue in an old directory or membership file. Failing that, our last resort is a provision in the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio: “[D]isciplinary counsel or the chair of a certified grievance committee may appoint one or more attorneys to inventory the files of an attorney and take action . . . as is necessary to protect the interest of clients of the attorney.” Gov. Bar R. V §26.
As a service to the Bar, the public, and attorneys’ surviving families, the CBA has created a voluntary system to enable you to designate an inventory attorney. The Inventory Attorney Program provides a starting point for winding down a practice. The following checklist will help begin the process.
The Inventory Attorney Program Checklist:
1. Considerations in Selecting an Inventory Attorney
- Select a licensed Ohio attorney whom you trust.
- Discuss what will need to be done in the event you are unavailable.
- Explain where to find important documents, files and any other important information that may be specific to your practice (see suggested list below).
- Don’t make your inventory attorney’s job more difficult than necessary. This is a great time to scrutinize your records management and retention policies.
- Your inventory attorney does not need to be a person capable of handling all of your outstanding cases. They simply need to be able to close down your practice.
- Inform the CBA, your office staff and family of your inventory attorney selection.
2. Suggested Information to Share with Your Inventory Attorney
- Primary and satellite office addresses and access information
- Staff names and duties
- Landlord and lease information
- Information on calendaring, billing, and case management systems
- Contact information for key vendors such as accountant, payroll service, insurance agent and IT consultant
- Safety deposit box location
- IOLTA and operating account numbers and location(s)
- Professional liability insurance carrier and policy number
- Office insurance carrier and policies
3. How to Participate in the CBA Inventory Attorney Program
- Download a copy of the inventory attorney designation form.
- Complete the form in collaboration with your designated inventory attorney.
- Submit your completed designation form to the CBA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CBA will maintain a record of your designated inventory attorney.
Questions? Please call (513) 699-1407.