(a) Appointment; When Authorized. If (1) an attorney dies, disappears, has been disbarred, suspended, or transferred to disability inactive status, or is incapacitated or has abandoned the practice of law, (2) there are open client matters, and (3) there is not known to exist any personal representative, partner, or other individual who is willing to conduct and capable of conducting the attorney's client affairs, Bar Counsel may file a petition requesting the appointment of a conservator to inventory the attorney's files and to take other appropriate action to protect the attorney's clients. A conservatorship may coexist with the administration of the attorney's general estate by a personal representative or guardian.
(b) Petition; Service; Order
(1) Filing. The petition to appoint a conservator may be filed in the circuit court for any county in which the attorney resided or maintained an office for the practice of law, and may include a request for emergency relief in accordance with subsection (b)(4) of this Rule. If the attorney has no established office and the attorney's residence is unknown, the petition may be filed in any circuit court.
(2) Service. The petition shall be served on the attorney, the guardian of the attorney, or the personal representative of the attorney, as appropriate, and on any other person the court may require to be served. Service shall be made in the manner described in Rule 2-121.
(3) Alternative Service. If, after reasonable efforts, the attorney cannot be served personally, service may be made on the attorney by sending the petition by e-mail to all e-mail addresses maintained by the attorney with the Attorney Information System in accordance with Rule 19-802.
(4) Emergency Appointment. Upon sufficient allegations in the petition and a showing by affidavit or other evidence that immediate, substantial, and irreparable harm may result from the attorney's disappearance or inability or unwillingness to deal properly with the attorney's trust accounts or client matters, the court may enter an order (A) appointing an attorney approved by Bar Counsel to serve as a temporary emergency conservator with authority to take control of the trust accounts and client files and (B) enjoining the financial institutions holding the trust accounts from transferring any funds except upon the order of the temporary conservator, all pending further order of the court.
(5) Order Appointing Conservator. Upon such proof of the facts as the court may require, the court may enter an order appointing an attorney approved by Bar Counsel to serve as conservator subject to further order of the court.
(c) Inventory. Promptly upon accepting the appointment, the conservator shall take possession and prepare an inventory of the attorney's files, take control of the attorney's trust and business accounts, review the files and accounts, identify open matters, and note the matters requiring action.
(d) Disposition of Files. With the consent of the client or the approval of the court, the conservator may assist the client in finding a new attorney, assume responsibility for specific matters, or refer the client's open matters to attorneys willing to handle them.
(e) Sale of Law Practice. With the approval of the court, the conservator may sell the attorney's law practice in accordance with Rule 19-301.17 (1.17) of the Maryland Attorneys' Rules of Professional Conduct.
(1) Entitlement. The conservator is entitled to periodic payment from the attorney's assets or estate for reasonable hourly attorneys' fees and reimbursement for expenditures reasonably incurred in carrying out the order of appointment.
(2) Petition for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses. Upon verified petition served on the attorney at the attorney's last known address or, if the attorney is deceased, on the personal representative of the attorney, the court may order payment to the conservator and enter judgment against the attorney or personal representative for the reasonable fees and expenses of the conservator. A copy of the verified petition also shall be served on Bar Counsel.
(3) Payment from Disciplinary Fund. If the conservator is unable to obtain full payment within one year after entry of judgment, the Commission may authorize payment from the Disciplinary Fund in an amount not exceeding the amount of the judgment that remains unsatisfied. If payment is made from the Disciplinary Fund, the conservator shall assign the judgment to the Commission for the benefit of the Disciplinary Fund.
(g) Confidentiality. A conservator shall not disclose any information contained in a client's file without the consent of the client, except as necessary to carry out the order of appointment.