Updated: Jan. 4, 2024

Custodianship, an Opportunity for Service

The WSBA is looking for lawyers to act as custodians. The WSBA appoints custodians to protect the clients’ interests when lawyers are missing, deceased, disabled, or disbarred (MDDDA) per the Rules for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct (ELC) 7.7. We are currently compiling a list of available attorneys. Please contact us below if you would consider serving when the need arises.

What Does a Custodian Do?

The custodian contacts the MDDDA’s clients, returns client files, and assists in locating new counsel. This usually involves going to the MDDDA’s office and moving the files to a secure location. The custodian might notify courts or administrative bodies. Many of the duties can be performed by supervised staff. The WSBA provides sample documents and spreadsheets to assist in the process.

When is a custodian appointed?

ELC 7.7 allows appointment of a custodian to protect the clients’ interests when a WSBA member fails to protect the clients’ interests after disbarment, suspension, or transfer to incapacity inactive status; or disappears, dies, or abandons practice and no other responsible person is available to protect the clients’ interests. 

Who can be a custodian?

Any active WSBA member is welcome to apply. Two or more custodians can be appointed to serve together. It’s helpful if the custodian is familiar with the nature of the MDDDA’s practice. 

How is a custodian appointed?

The Disciplinary Board chair appoints a custodian following a motion prepared by WSBA staff. 

Can the custodian offer to represent the MDDDA’s clients?

Yes. The custodian may offer to serve as the new representative after making clear that the client has the right to seek new counsel of their choice, and that WSBA appointment of the custodian does not constitute an endorsement or an obligation for the client to use the custodian as their new counsel. Lawyers must be removed as custodian for a client prior to representing her/him.

Does the WSBA pay the custodian?

The WSBA can pay for administrative costs such as mailing and storage costs. Currently, custodians serve as volunteers.

See also Closing Another Attorney's Office.

Contact us

Thea Jennings, Assistant General Counsel, thealj@wsba.org

Darlene Neumann, paralegal, darlenen@wsba.org