Preamble and Terminology

There is hereby established a comprehensive system of regulation of the legal profession in the State of Maine to encourage and promote competent and ethical practice by members of the Maine Bar, and to make these standards known to members of the public, so that they may have confidence in the legal profession in Maine. These Bar Rules supplement existing statutory regulation and processes, such as those established in 4 M.R.S. §§ 851 and 858, and the inherent authority of the courts to regulate attorney conduct. Attorney regulation includes, but is not limited to, registration, fee arbitration, ethical guidance and discipline.

Terms used in these Rules shall have the following meanings, unless the context clearly requires a different meaning:

“Action” means a civil judicial or administrative proceeding brought to enforce, redress, or protect a right.

“Active status” means an attorney duly admitted to the practice of law in Maine, currently registered and in good standing with the Board.

“Allowable reasonable fees” for IOLTA accounts are per check charges, per deposit charges, sweep fees, fees in lieu of a minimum balance, federal deposit or share insurance fees, and reasonable IOLTA account administrative or maintenance fees. All other fees are the responsibility of, and may be charged to the lawyer maintaining the IOLTA account. Fees or charges in excess of the interest or dividends earned on the account for any month or quarter shall not be taken from interest or dividends earned on other IOLTA accounts or from the principal of the account.

“Alternatives to Discipline Program” means any program, authorized by the Court, to which an attorney may be referred in lieu of discipline, including fee arbitration, arbitration, mediation, law office management assistance, lawyer assistance programs, counseling, continuing legal education programs, or any other program authorized by the Court.

“Approved Legal Services Organization” means a pro bono publico legal services program sponsored by a court-annexed program, the Maine State Bar Association, the University of Maine School of Law; a nonprofit organization that provides legal services to persons of limited means and that receives funding from the federal Legal Services Corporation, the Maine Justice Foundation, or the Maine Civil Legal Services Fund; or any other nonprofit legal services organization designated by the Court.

“Attorney” and “lawyer” are used interchangeably, and mean a person admitted to the practice of law in Maine, or any other person who appears, participates or otherwise engages in the practice of law in Maine.

“Award” means the decision of the arbitrators in the fee arbitration proceeding.

“Bar Counsel” means the attorneys employed by the Board to perform the prosecutorial function in lawyer disciplinary matters, or Special Counsel retained by the Board pursuant to Rule 2(a).

“Board” means the Board of Overseers of the Bar.

“Board Clerk” means the attorney employed by the Board to perform advisory, review, and administrative functions as set forth in these Rules.

“Central Intake Office” means an office staffed by a Board Clerk that has certain administrative and review functions as set forth in these Rules.

“CLE” means continuing legal education.

“Client” means a person, public officer, corporation, association or other organization or entity, either public or private, who receives professional legal services from an attorney.

“Client Protection Fund” means the Maine Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection.

“Commission” means either Fee Arbitration Commission, Grievance Commission or Professional Ethics Commission.

“Complainant” means the party filing a grievance complaint.

“Court” means the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

“Executive Clerk of the Court” means the Clerk of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

“Fee Arbitration Commission” means a creation of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, under the jurisdiction of the Board of Overseers of the Bar, that provides an efficient and less formal adjudication process for attorney-client fee disputes.

“Financial institution” includes a bank, savings and loan association, credit union, savings bank, and any other business or person that accepts for deposit funds held in trust by lawyers.

“Good Standing” means an attorney, not currently suspended or disbarred, duly admitted to the practice of law in Maine or, if specifically referenced in the applicable rule, other jurisdictions.

“Inactive status” refers to the status of an attorney in good standing who is not engaged in the practice of law in Maine.

“Judge(s)” means Justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Justices of the Maine Superior Court, Judges of the Maine District Court, Maine Family Law Magistrates, Judges and Magistrates of the United States District Court for the District of Maine, Maine Judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Judges of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maine.

“Judicial Law Clerk” means an attorney serving in a non-administrative position who provides assistance to a judge in researching issues before the court and in writing memoranda and opinions.

“Grievance Commission” means the attorney disciplinary body appointed by and responsible to the Board.

“IOLTA” means Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts.

“IOLTA account” means a pooled trust account earning interest or dividends at an eligible institution in which a lawyer or law firm holds funds on behalf of client(s), which funds are small in amount or held for a short period of time such that they cannot earn interest or dividends for the client in excess of the costs incurred to secure such income.

“Maine Assistance Program” refers to the Maine Assistance Program for Lawyers and Judges, which offers confidential assistance to help individuals identify and address problems with alcoholism, drug abuse and mental or emotional disorders.

“Monitor” means an attorney appointed by the Grievance Commission or the Court to provide a system of accountability and support to a respondent attorney.

“Notice of dishonor” refers to the notice that a financial institution is required to give, under the laws of Maine, upon presentation of an instrument that the institution refuses to pay upon presentment.

“Panel” means three members of the Grievance Commission or the Fee Arbitration Commission assigned to adjudicate and issue a decision.

“Party” means a person or entity directly involved in a grievance or fee arbitration proceeding.

“Petition” means a written request for fee arbitration in a form approved by the Commission.

“Petitioner” means the party requesting fee arbitration, Bar Counsel prosecuting a Grievance Commission proceeding, or an attorney seeking reinstatement following suspension or disbarment.

“Probation” means a discipline imposed where certain conditions are placed on an attorney’s practice.

“Properly payable” describes an instrument that, if presented in the normal course of business, is in a form requiring payment under the laws of this jurisdiction.

“Professional Ethics Commission” means a commission that renders formal and informal written advisory opinions to the Court, Board, Grievance Commission, Bar Counsel and members of the Maine bar involving interpretation and application of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct to lawyer conduct.

“Proxy” means an attorney named in another attorney’s registration statement who will act to protect the interests of clients and conclude the law practice of an attorney who is incapacitated, suspended, or disbarred; or who has disappeared or died.

“Public member” means a Maine resident appointed by the Court to serve on the Board or a Maine resident appointed by the Board to serve on a Commission who has not been admitted to practice law in any jurisdiction.

“Receiver” means a licensed Maine attorney in good standing who is appointed by the Court to act to protect the interests of clients and conclude the law practice of an attorney who is incapacitated, suspended, or disbarred; or who has or disappeared or died.

“Registration documents” means those documents that the Board requires each attorney to file on an annual basis, consisting of a registration statement, Continuing Legal Education Annual Report [Rule 5(b)], and IOLTA Election Form [Rule 6(b)], and such other documents as the Board may from time to time direct.

"Registration status" means registration categories established by the Board.

“Respondent” or "respondent attorney" means the attorney with whom petitioner has a fee dispute, or an attorney who is the subject of a grievance complaint or disciplinary proceeding.

"Single Justice" means a single justice or judge of Maine’s trial courts or of the Supreme Judicial Court, designated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. This includes active retired justices of the Supreme Judicial Court and active retired justices and judges of the trial courts.

“Surrender” means withdrawal from the practice of law in the State of Maine in order to avoid disciplinary proceedings, or in lieu of any other sanction.