A potential client who is unhappy with her present lawyer called my office. May I talk to her?
There is a common misconception regarding a lawyer’s obligations when contacted by a represented party who is unhappy with her lawyer. Many lawyers turn such calls away automatically, saying, “As long as you have a lawyer, I can’t talk to you.”
This is the correct response, of course, if you are adverse to the potential client or otherwise involved in the subject matter of the representation. The Rule 4.2 obligation not to communicate with a represented party begins, “In representing a client, a lawyer shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person or entity the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter ….” Accordingly, if you are not involved in the subject matter of the representation, you are free to discuss it with the potential client. Any other interpretation of the rule would chill a client’s option to obtain a second opinion, and would be contrary to the client’s absolute right to terminate representation at any time, as provided in Rule 1.16.