For questions specific to trust accounts, please go to the trust account information page.
For questions regarding succession planning, please go to the retirement page.
- Request for Certificate of Good Standing or Similar Document
The Clerk of the Supreme Court can provide you with a certificate of good standing, however there is a fee of $10. Request a certificate.
- Lawyer Change of Name and New Law License
There are two separate aspects of a lawyer change of name. First, to change the name in the OPR database, we require a copy of the official document that effected the change in name, such as the marriage license, divorce decree, change of name decree. Once we have that document to place on file, we will make the necessary name change in the OPR database. There is no charge for this service. After the name change has been recorded in the database, a new law license needs to be issued showing the new name. There is a $10 charge for issuing a new law license showing the changed (new) name.
To get this process started, you should send us a letter describing the new name you want to be licensed under. You should enclose with the letter a copy of the official document that effected the name change, and your check in the amount of $10 made out to the Office of Professional Regulation for reissue of your license.
- How to Give Notice of Termination of House Counsel Status
Your authority for this situation is at Iowa Court Rules 31.16(2)(e)(7) and 31.16(3)(c)(3). You and the company would just need to write us at OPR and advise us of the date your employment in a house counsel position will be ending or has ended. This could be done in one combined letter, if you wanted to handle it that way. Once we have that letter, we will change your status in the lawyer registry.
- Practice in Iowa Through Out-of State Firms (by Lawyers Licensed Here)
Make sure your law firm letterhead and other publications accurately represent your license status in each of the states you list as being eligible to practice in. Other than that. there are no special requirements with the Office of Professional Regulation or the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court licenses individual lawyers, and does not license or register law firms. Depending on the nature of the business form or entity you have used for your law firm, there may be registration or other requirements under the Iowa Code to do business in Iowa, or to do business under a trade name, that are not unique to lawyers. We don't offer any advice on those matters, but you should do your own research or seek advice from an Iowa practitioner as to them.
- About Bar Numbers
Iowa does not issue bar numbers, per se. The commission ID number is an internal organizational tool used by the Office of Professional Regulation, and is not intended for use outside the office. The closest we have to a bar number is your AT pin, used on filings in district courts. If you must provide a bar number for some purpose, the AT pin probably is the best choice.
- About Exempt Status
An Iowa-licensed attorney who does not in fact practice law in Iowa may apply for a certificate of exemption from CLE attendance, reporting and fee payment requirements pursuant to Iowa Court Rule 41.7 and a certificate of exemption from client security reporting and fee payment requirements pursuant to Iowa Court Rule 39.7. It is permissible to apply for exemption for purposes of one commission, but not the other. An application for exempt status may be filed by accessing your lawyer account page and selecting the menu item "Apply for Certificate of Exemption."
A lawyer issued a certificate of exemption from either or both commissions may not practice law in Iowa until reinstated. The practice of law as used in this context includes the examination of abstracts, consummation of real estate transactions, preparation of legal briefs, deeds, buy and sell agreements, contracts, wills and tax returns as well as the representation of others in any Iowa courts, the right to represent others in any Iowa courts, or to regularly prepare legal instruments, secure legal rights, advise others as to their legal rights or the effect of contemplated actions upon their legal rights, or to hold oneself out to so do; or to be a judge or one who rules upon the legal rights of others unless the state nor federal law requires the person so judging or ruling to hold a license to practice law.
Reinstatement from exemption generally requires payment of current fees, the filing of current report forms, and in the case of CLE, showing satisfaction of the continuing legal education requirements the lawyer would have performed had he or she remained active during the period of exemption. Further information regarding reinstatement is available at Iowa Court Rules 42.7 and 39.7.
- How many hours of CLE credit do I need to maintain my license?
Iowa attorneys must complete 15 hours accredited by the Commission during each calendar year. The 15 hours must include a minimum of 3 hours every two calendar years ending in the odd-numbered year devoted exclusively to the area of legal ethics.
- Iowa Lawyer Assistance Program
The Iowa Lawyer Assistance Program (ILAP) provides confidential assistance to Iowa lawyers experiencing substance abuse or mental health issues. According to ILAP:
- Lawyers abuse alcohol at a 50 - 80% higher rate than the general population.
- The incidence of depression among lawyers is twice as high as in the general population.
- According to a recent report of the ABA, studies indicate that more than 50 percent of all disciplinary cases involve impaired lawyers.
- The incidence of malpractice insurance claims is significantly higher among impaired attorneys.
- Lawyers suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction or depression often deny that they have problem.
According to lawyer Lesley A. Russo of the organization Thriving Lawyers (Opens in New Window), lawyers face more stress than other professions because:
- Lawyers often must put personal values aside when representing clients.
- Representing clients generally involves zero sum conflicts, in which one party must lose.
- Adversarial skills required in practice are difficult to leave at the office.
- Results in legal matters necessarily may cause harm to others.
- Law firm culture rewards survival of the fittest.
Lawyers needing someone to talk about these issues should contact the Iowa Lawyer Assistance Program:
- Regarding Federal Deposit Insurance and Large Client Balances in the Trust Account
The situation of client deposits exceeding the FDIC insurance limit also occurred before the advent of unlimited insurance coverage a few years ago. The key things to remember are that you owe your clients a high duty of care, but you are not an insurer. Also, it is perfectly fine to discuss the deposit insurance issue with the clients and let them help formulate a strategy. Finally, the deposit insurance limits apply per client, so long as your account is labeled a trust account and you have records showing the exact interest of each client in the account. With those considerations in mind, here are some thoughts:
- Choose a strong bank to do business with. It is a good idea to monitor the bank watch lists to ensure your bank is not on the list, for example.
- For deposits that will be around for an extended period of time, you will want to split the funds over two or more banks to get coverage for the amount in its entirety.
- If a deposit is not going to be around long enough to make splitting it up over several banks practical, just get the money in and out as soon as possible. Speed is your friend, in this situation. Electronic or wire deposits and transmittals are best for this purpose.
- If you routinely have deposits in excess of the insurance limit, you might want to talk with your banker regarding commercial deposit insurance. This is an expense that could be passed along to the clients, so long as you address it in your fee or engagement agreement.
- Remember that some clients will have their own deposits at the same bank where your trust account is located, so it is imperative to discuss the insurance issue with them to ascertain if their personal deposits will affect coverage for what you have in the trust account.
- Requirement for Trust Account in Iowa
The jurisdiction of the work governs whether the funds arise from practice in Iowa. E.g., if the matter you are handling would be litigated in a forum in Iowa, the matter arises from Iowa practice and any client funds received would need to be placed in an Iowa trust account.
The practice of depositing funds received from clients for matters arising from practice in Iowa in a trust account located outside Iowa violates Iowa Court Rule 45.1, which provides in pertinent part:
Funds a lawyer receives from clients or third persons for matters arising out of the practice of law in Iowa shall be deposited in one or more identifiable interest-bearing trust accounts located in Iowa.
No exception or accommodation is included in the rule for attorneys who already maintain a trust account in another jurisdiction. The requirement of physical location of the account in Iowa helps ensure that interest payable under the Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) program will be properly paid to the Iowa Lawyer Trust Account Commission. In addition, physical placement of such accounts in Iowa ensures that the depository institution will be subject to the jurisdiction of Iowa courts and amenable to Iowa process and the audit processes of the Client Security Commission.
If you actually have not received any client funds for matters arising from the practice of law in Iowa, there is no need at this time to establish a trust account in Iowa. However, a trust account in Iowa must be established and used at the time you do receive client funds for matters arising from the practice of law in Iowa. Our trust account auditors do periodically perform audits to ensure compliance with this rule.
- Monthly Reconciliations Required
Monthly reconciliations of the main trust account ledger, client subaccount ledgers, and adjusted bank statement, the so-called “three-way reconciliation,” now are required by Iowa Court Rule 45.2(3)(a)(9). The experience of the Client Security Commission is that failure to perform trial balances and reconciliations of client subaccounts on a monthly basis is a key contributor to loss of accountability for client monies.
A monthly statement from your bank is a vital part of the reconciliation process. If your bank has been providing statements on a quarterly basis instead of monthly, you will need to make arrangements to receive monthly statements or access monthly statement information electronically.