Office of Bar Counsel, 0419 WYBJ, Vol. 42 No. 3. 12

Author:Mark W. Gifford, Wyoming State Bar Office of Bar Counsel Cheyenne, Wyoming
Position:Vol. 42 3 Pg. 12
 
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Office of Bar Counsel

Vol. 42 No. 3 Pg. 12

Wyoming Bar Journal

April, 2019

Wyoming's

Surrogate Lawyers: Cause for Celebration

Mark

W. Gifford, Wyoming State Bar Office of Bar Counsel Cheyenne,

Wyoming

Since I

last wrote about the need for and importance of surrogate

lawyers nearly three years ago (see "Care About

Your Clients? Designate a Surrogate!" Wyoming

Lawyer, June 2016, p. 12), the age demographic of

Wyoming lawyers has continued its shift towards practitioners

remaining in active practice farther into their lives. One

out of three active members of the Wyoming State Bar is over

the age of 60; 20% are over the age of 65; 9% are over the

age of 70. For active status members within the state, the

numbers are even more dramatic: 37% are over the age of 60;

one out of four is over the age of 65; 11% are over the age

of 70.

The

frequency of deaths of Wyoming lawyers in active practice

continues to climb. When those numbers are added to the

number of active practitioners who experience an

incapacitating event— disabling illness, for instance,

or injury—the lawyer's clients may be placed at

risk.

One of

the important services provided by the Wyoming State Bar is

assistance to the families and colleagues of lawyers who pass

away or are rendered unable to practice. We continue to

encourage lawyers to designate surrogates, and a good many

do. When the inevitable comes to pass, my office will contact

the lawyer's designated surrogate if one has been named.

In the absence of a designated surrogate, I will contact

colleagues in a recruitment effort of sorts. I will draft a

petition for appointment of surrogate (called

"protective counsel" in the language of Rule 26(d),

WR.Disc.Proc.) and an order appointing surrogate. The

petition is then filed in district court and an order is

entered.

The

order authorizes the surrogate lawyer to inventory the

deceased or incapacitated lawyer's files, arrange for

reassignment of active matters and take possession of the

lawyer's trust account. Once the lawyer's practice

has been wound up, the surrogate lawyer files a report with

the district court and the court issues an order discharging

the surrogate lawyer. If the deceased or incapacitated lawyer

had a busy practice, this can be quite a task to take on.

It is

heartwarming to see the enthusiastic response calls for

lawyers to serve as surrogates for their fallen colleagues

have...

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