Pursuant to S.J.C. Rule 4:02, all registering attorneys must now complete the Attorney Demographic and Law Practice Survey as part of the registration process.
You cannot complete your registration until you have completed the Attorney Demographic and Law Practice Survey.
You will receive instructions to complete the survey when you begin the process of renewing your annual attorney registration. When you click “Take Demographic Survey” from that page, your browser will open a pop-up window. You must disable any pop-up blockers in your browser to ensure the pop-up opens properly.
You will only have access to the survey during your annual registration renewal.
Your survey is completed after you have answered all questions and clicked “Submit” at the end of the survey page. You will then see a confirmation message on the screen. You must close the pop-up window and return to the BBO registration page. Then, select “Continue to Registration”.
You will find the date and time of your survey completion documented on your submitted registration form and your registration confirmation email.
Under the terms of Rule 4:02, the purpose of the survey is to assist the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Lawyer Well-Being to better understand the makeup of the Massachusetts bar and to use the results of the survey solely to develop services and programs to aid lawyers.
Your responses will not be associated with your BBO Attorney account and will be de-identified to prevent your personal identity from being revealed.
The financial statements used by the probate court (Dom. Rel. Forms 301S, 301L) require a lawyer to certify that he or she has no knowledge that any of the information contained on the statement is false. The lawyer's certification of a client's financial statement implies that a reasonable inquiry as to the accuracy of the information provided has been undertaken. See Admonition No. 99-45 (lawyer negligently certified that information on client's financial statement was correct even though the amount of debts and expenses did not conform to documents which the lawyer had filed in response to discovery requests; lawyer admonished for inadequate preparation and lack of reasonable diligence in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1 and 1.3). The inquiry made by a "reasonably prudent and competent lawyer" must be guided by all the information in the lawyer's possession.
If a lawyer learns that a client has made a material misrepresentation on a financial statement before the statement is filed with the court, the lawyer may not sign the financial statement and must refuse to file it. Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(c) prohibits lawyers from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.3(a)(4) prohibits lawyers from offering evidence they know to be false. (See Mass. R. Prof. C. 9.1(f) for definition of "knowledge".)
If a lawyer learns that a client has made a material misrepresentation on a financial statement that has already been filed in court, the lawyer should first attempt to persuade the client to correct the false information. See Comments [2A],  and  to Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.3.
If the persuasion is ineffective, Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.6(b)(3) and 3.3(a)(2) combine to require the lawyer to disclose confidential information to the extent necessary to rectify the false statement, whether or not the lawyer decides to withdraw from the case. Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.3, comment [2A]. This duty to rectify client fraud continues to the conclusion of the proceeding, including all appeals. See Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.3(b).
It should also be noted that a lawyer who withdraws from a case may disclaim an affirmation or opinion or document issued based on the false statement. Comment  to Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.6
One of the primary obligations of a lawyer is to maintain the confidentiality of information received in the course of the representation. This obligation is imposed to encourage clients to confide in persons trained in the law with the expectation that their secrets will be preserved. When a client states that he is going to commit a crime or take violent action against someone, the lawyer should attempt to dissuade the client from taking illegal or otherwise improper future conduct. Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.6, comment . If the lawyer is unable to do so, then the lawyer must decide whether or not disclosure is permitted or required.
Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.6(b)(1) gives a lawyer discretion to choose to disclose confidential information to the extent necessary to prevent the commission of a criminal (or fraudulent) act that the lawyer reasonably believes "is likely to result in death or substantial bodily harm, or in substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another.") While the rule prohibits disclosure of an intention to commit a crime that will result in "trivial" or "small" harm, actual bodily injury is not necessary. For example, "statutory rape" is included in the types of harm that authorize, but do not mandate, disclosure. Comment [9A]
Disclosure is required under more restrictive circumstances. See Rule 1.6(b) and comments  and . In civil proceedings (Rule 3.3(e) governs the lawyer's obligations in criminal cases), Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.3(b) requires disclosure of confidential information to a tribunal if disclosure is necessary to avoid "assisting" a criminal (or fraudulent) act, such as perjury, affecting the tribunal and if disclosure is the only means available to rectify the fraud. Note that "assistance" has a "special meaning" in this rule. Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.3, comment [2A]. Even when not before a tribunal, Mass. R. Prof. C. 4.1(b) requires a lawyer to disclose material facts to a third person if disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal (or fraudulent) act by the client, unless disclosure is prohibited by Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.6. Note that in this rule, "assistance" is defined under the more usual and narrow principles of tort, agency, and criminal law. See "Lies My Client Told Me" for additional discussion of Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.3 and 4.1. Finally, Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.3 requires a lawyer to disclose a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer, unless disclosure is prohibited by Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.6.
Any disclosure adverse to the client's interests must be no greater than that reasonably necessary to achieve the prevention of the crime. Whether the lawyer should give advance notice to the client that confidential information will be disclosed in order to prevent the commission of a crime depends on the circumstances. Under Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.3, the lawyer must first call upon the client to rectify the criminal or fraudulent act, and, if possible, warn the client in advance as to the lawyer's obligations to the tribunal, before disclosing any confidential information. When disclosure "might hasten the commission of a dangerous act by the client [,]" advance notice would defeat the purpose of the exception. Rule 1.6, comment [19A] The lawyer has to use reasoned judgment that evaluates the competing concerns in order to decide in such circumstances whether to give notice to the client.
A lawyer cannot bring suit against a client until the lawyer's representation of that client has ended. See Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.7(b). Thus, the first thing that the lawyer must do is withdraw. See Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(a). After withdrawal, the lawyer should consider submitting the matter to mediation or fee arbitration. Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5, comment 5. Filing suit against the client should be the last resort. The lawyer should bear in mind that a suit against a client will often prompt the client to take reciprocal action against him, usually by filing a counteraction for malpractice or a grievance at the Board of Bar Overseers.
If a lawyer is representing a client before a tribunal, permission of the tribunal may be required before the lawyer may withdraw. See Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(c). If the tribunal does not grant permission, the lawyer must continue to represent the client diligently and zealously and must delay action to collect the fees until after the representation is terminated. "The lawyer's own interests should not be permitted to have an adverse effect on the representation of a client." Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.7, comment 6.
The ethical rule governing fees, Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5, does not address the question of charging interest on unpaid balances for legal services previously rendered. Bar Counsel's view is that a lawyer may charge interest provided that the client has notice and a reasonable opportunity to pay the balance due without interest. Like the fee itself, the rate of interest must be reasonable to be enforceable. See Comment [1A] to Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5, and MBA Opinion 83-1.
Rule 1.5(b)(1) states that, with a few exceptions spelled out in Rule 1.5(b)(2), the scope of the representation and the basis or rate of the fee and expenses shall be communicated to the client in writing except when the lawyer has regularly represented the client on the same basis or rate. The lawyer should give advance written notice to the client that there will be interest charged on late payments, whether or not the lawyer-client relationship is well established.
The ethical rules are clear that a lawyer cannot settle a client's case without the client's consent. Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.2(a). The lawyer also cannot endorse a check with the client's name, pay himself a fee, or dismiss the case without the client's approval. Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.15(b), (c).
A lawyer has an obligation to undertake all reasonable efforts to locate a client who is missing. These and other ethical obligations of lawyers who have lost contact with their clients are described in more detail in "VANISHED! What To Do When A Client Goes Missing" (9/20). The article also discusses the steps a lawyer can take to protect a client's case, the option of withdrawing, and the difficulties to be expected.
The article also has a helpful discussion of steps which can be taken at the outset of the representation to avoid some of these problems.
The lawyer is being asked to represent one spouse in a divorce against a former client. The question of whether a conflict exists is governed by Mass. R. Prof. C. Rule 1.9(a), which provides:
A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person's interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client consents after consultation.
There is no doubt that representation of one spouse in a divorce involves representation of interests "materially adverse to the interests" of the other spouse. Regardless of how amicable the divorce may appear to be, given the potential rights and interests involved, particularly if there are children or property involved or if one spouse does not work, there are interests that are materially adverse between the parties.
Whether a divorce is substantially related to a matter on which the lawyer represented both spouses depends on the particular facts of the prior representation, the issues that are likely to arise in the divorce, and the amount of time that has passed since the prior matter concluded. If the prior representation of the parties involved any issues or facts that may be involved in the divorce, there is a risk that the divorce and the prior matter could be considered substantially related. That risk is increased the closer the matters occur in time.
If there is a conflict, Rule 1.9(a) specifies that the lawyer can nonetheless undertake the representation if the former client consents after consultation. See Comment 12 to Rule 1.9, as well as Comment 5 to Rule 1.7, for guidance on obtaining informed consent.
No matter how compelling the client's situation, no matter how sympathetic the lawyer may be with that situation, any lawyer who advances funds to a client for anything other than court costs and expenses of litigation violates Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.8(e). This prohibition is absolute; it leaves no wiggle room.
For additional discussion of this topic, see "Neither a Borrower Nor a Lender Be."
Lawyers who decide to leave their law firms have fiduciary obligations to their remaining colleagues as well as ethical obligations to their clients stemming from the client's right to choose his or her own lawyer. See Pettingell v. Morrison, Mahoney & Miller, 426 Mass. 253 (1997); Meehan v. Shaughnessy, 404 Mass. 419 (1989). Among other things, the departing lawyer must disclose the departure to the firm before any notice is given to clients, and the departing lawyer and the firm must identify the departing lawyer's clients. Clients must then be given fair, timely notice of the departure and full opportunity to decide whether they wish to follow the departing lawyer, remain with the firm, or retain a different lawyer altogether. The remaining lawyers cannot obstruct the exit of clients who leave with the departing lawyer, and they must withdraw from representation in compliance with the ethical rules. Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(a)(3), 5.6(a). Departing lawyers who want to terminate representation must also withdraw. All withdrawing lawyers must notify the clients, take reasonable steps to safeguard the clients' interests, refund any unearned fees, and, for cases in litigation, comply with the rules of the tribunal on withdrawal. Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.15(b), 1.16. These and other ethical obligations of both departing and remaining lawyers are described in more detail in "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Law Firm" (4/00).
1. Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15 places some limitations on where you can maintain your IOLTA account or other trust account, but they are not difficult to meet. One of these limitations is that trust funds may be deposited only in financial institutions that have agreed to report dishonored checks to the Board of Bar Overseers. Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.15(f). Nearly 200 institutions have signed such an agreement. Individual trust accounts in which the interest is payable as directed by the client may be maintained outside Massachusetts if the client or third party who has the interest in the funds consents (Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.15(a)), but only financial institutions that have signed a dishonored-check agreement may be used. Almost all of the banks on the Board's dishonored-check list are located in Massachusetts. As of this writing, only a few out-of-state institutions have signed such an agreement.
2. There are additional restrictions on IOLTA accounts. IOLTA accounts must be maintained in this Commonwealth, in an insured bank, savings and loan association, or credit union. Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.15(e)(1). In addition, IOLTA accounts, must be in a financial institution that has certified to be in compliance with the July 26, 2006 IOLTA Guidelines. These Guidelines call for attorneys to place their IOLTA accounts in financial institutions which earn the same interest generally available to similarly situated non-IOLTA customers at the same financial institution.
3. Over 150 institutions are in full compliance and available to hold IOLTA accounts. The Massachusetts IOLTA Committee maintains a list of these institutions on their website, which can be viewed by clicking here.
In order to participate in Firm Payments, a firm or organization must have an activated Firm Admininistrator account with the BBO.
Board of Bar Overseers
99 High Street
Boston, MA 02110.
Attorneys are not registered until the check has been processed. The BBO will not accept partial payment of registration fees by check and the registration is not completed until the full fee has been received by the BBO. Checks sent in for less than the amount shown on the registration confirmation page will be held for 10 days and then destroyed.
The telephone number of the Clerk's Office is (617) 557-1050 or you may click this link to directly access the Attorney Services of the Supreme Judicial Court Clerk's Office for the County of Suffolk: http://www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/sjc/about/clerks-suffolk-county/attorney-services.html.
(Please note the Board of Bar Overseers will not process a name change until notified by the Supreme Judicial Court Clerk's Office.)
Certificates of Admission and Good Standing are issued by the SJC Clerk’s Office for the County of Suffolk. Please click this link to directly access this information at the Attorney Services of the Supreme Judicial Court Clerk s Office for the County of Suffolk: http://www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/sjc/about/clerks-suffolk-county/certificate-of-admission-and-good-standing.html.
Board of Bar Overseers
99 High Street
Boston, MA 02110
Please include the following in your request:
1. The jurisdiction or state to which you are applying for admission.
2. The address of the jurisdiction for which you are applying for admission. If you are applying in New York, please specify the judicial department.
3. If you are requesting a letter for any reason other than admission, please state the address of the organization which requested the above letter (e.g. prospective employer, university, etc.)
To obtain a replacement bar card, please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to the following address:
Board of Bar Overseers
99 High Street
Boston, MA 02110
There is a $10.00 charge for each replacement bar card. Payment may be made by check or money order, payable to the Board of Bar Overseers.
Attorneys choosing "Active" status are allowed to practice law within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. They will be issued bar cards.
Attorneys choosing "Inactive", "Retired", "Clerk", "Judicial" or "Foreign Legal Consultant" status are not allowed to practice law within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. They will not be issued bar cards.
Attorneys choosing Pro bono Retired" or Pro bono Inactive status are allowed to provide pro bono publico legal services under the auspices of approved legal service organizations, but are not allowed to perform legal services for any other person or entity. They will be issued bar cards. For additional information on pro bono status, please go to the following link: S.J.C. 4:02 (8)(a).
If you are changing to a status other than "active," and you are considering applying for reciprocal admission in another jurisdiction, the Board recommends that you contact the other jurisdiction before requesting the status change. The jurisdiction to which you are applying may require that you be registered under active status for a set period in another jurisdiction before approving your request.
Fees include a $51 voluntary Access to Justice fee. If you choose to opt out of Access to Justice fee, please pay the amount listed in parenthesis.
|Status||Active Status||Inactive Status|
|Admitted for 5 or fewer years||$ 271.00 ($ 220.00)||$ 161.00 ($ 110.00)|
|Admitted for more than 5 and fewer than 50 years||$ 351.00 ($ 300.00)||$ 201.00 ($ 150.00)|
|Admitted for more than fifty years||$ 71.00 ($ 20.00)||$ 61.00 ($ 10.00)|
|Late fee||$ 50.00|
|Reinstatement fee (after suspension)||$ 100.00|
|Returned check charge||$ 25.00|
|Replacement fee for lost or additional bar card||$ 10.00|
Attorneys can opt out of the additional fee and the decision to opt out shall be confidential. For additional information, please call the IOLTA Committee at (617) 723-9093 or visit http://www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/court-management/plan-initiatives/access-to-justice-gen.html.
- Complete and sign the following required forms and email the executed forms to email@example.com:
- Upon receipt of the completed and signed forms, the Registration Department will send you an email itemizing the fees due.
- Mail your payment with a copy of the itemized fees sent by the Registration Department to:
99 High Street
Boston, MA 02110
ATTN: Registration Department
Upon receipt of your payment and review of the required forms, your request for reinstatement will be forwarded to the Supreme Judicial Court for the Court’s consideration. Please allow up to 21 business days for the processing of your reinstatement application.
In order to participate in Firm Payments, a firm or organization must have an activated Firm Admininistrator account with the BBO.
Generally, the reinstatement processes for other types of suspensions are addressed by the rules governing those types of suspension. See S.J.C. Rule 4:01, secs. 3(2), (3) (administrative suspension for failure to cooperate with a bar counsel investigation or otherwise comply with the disciplinary process); S.J.C. Rule 4:02, sec. 3; S.J.C. Rule 4:03, secs. 2, 3 (administrative suspension for failure to comply with the annual obligations to register with the Board or to pay registration fees), S.J.C. Rule 3:16, secs. 4-6 (administrative suspension for failure timely to attend Practicing With Professionalism Program) and S.J.C. Rule 4:01, secs. 12, 12A (temporary suspension based on a criminal conviction or an ongoing threat of harm to clients).
For administrative suspensions under S.J.C. Rule 4:02, sec. 3 or S.J.C. Rule 4:03, secs. 2, 3 (administrative suspension for failure to comply with the annual obligations to register with the Board or to pay registration fees), please visit the "Registration" tab at the top of this FAQ page.
Generally, for suspensions of a year or less, an affidavit of compliance must be filed with the single justice session of the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County, under the docket number of the original suspension order. The required contents of the affidavit are set forth at S.J.C. Rule 4:01, sec. 18 (1)(a) (six months or less) and (1)(b) (more than six months but not longer than a year). Unless bar counsel files a timely objection, a reinstatement order will issue without the necessity for a petition or a hearing. S.J.C. Rule 4:01, sec. 18 (1)(c). However, this option is available only if the suspended attorney files the affidavit of compliance within six months of eligibility to apply; otherwise, a petition for reinstatement, as described below, is required. S.J.C. Rule 4:01, sec. 18 (1)(d).
For suspensions in excess of one year (or where required by the order of suspension) the suspended attorney must file a petition for reinstatement. The petition may not be filed until three months before the end of the stated term, until three months before the expiration of five years from the effective date of an order of indefinite suspension, or until three months before the expiration of eight years from the effective date of an order of disbarment. The petition is filed with the single justice session of the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County, under the docket number of the original suspension order, and it will be referred to the Board for an evidentiary hearing resulting in the Board’s recommendation to the Court. S.J.C. Rule 4:01, sec. 18 (4), (5).
For reinstatement from a suspension of more than a year, the required petition for reinstatement must set forth certain allegations, set forth in S.J.C. Rule 4:01, sec. (4). There is no official form for this petition, but the Board has prepared a sample, bare-bones petition that will help a petitioner to ensure that all required allegations are included.
In addition, when a petition is required, the attorney must complete and file a reinstatement questionnaire, in two parts.
1. The time when an attorney who has been suspended or disbarred becomes eligible to seek reinstatement depends on the type of sanction and its length. Generally, and unless ordered otherwise,
C. For indefinite suspensions, the petition for reinstatement may not be filed until “the expiration of at least three months prior to five years from the effective date of the order of suspension.” S.J.C. Rule 4:01, sec. 18(2)(b). Note: Notwithstanding this somewhat different wording, the Board and the Court read the rule concerning indefinite suspensions as analogous to the rules for term suspensions and disbarments: Eligibility begins at five years, less three months, from the effective date of the order of indefinite suspension.
D. For disbarment or for a disciplinary resignation, the petition for reinstatement may not be filed until “three months prior to the expiration of at least eight years from the effective date of the order of disbarment or allowance of resignation.” S.J.C. Rule 4:01, sec. 18(2)(a).
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