Practice Tip: Note to self–don’t hit ‘reply all’

A quickie: when you get an email from opposing counsel, the cc line full of email addresses, don’t just hit ‘reply all’ or you might be violating ethics rules.

Rule 4.2(a) in the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct provides guidance on this:

In representing a client, a lawyer shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter, unless the lawyer has the consent of the other lawyer.

Unless you have already received a communication from the opposing counsel asking for you to cc his client, be wise, and reply only to the attorney.

If you make the mistake, or if you aren’t clear, lay out the ground rules with opposing counsel so that the mistake is not made.

For example, in our office, we have a legal department manager who coordinates the high volume of transactions that cross the attorneys desks every day. Often, our client and its agents will go to the manager before the attorney to find out the status of a deal, simply because it’s faster, she has a better view of the big picture, and knows what needs to happen next. If we don’t ask that she’s cc’d on all emails from opposing counsel, not only is our central manager left out of the loop, transactions slow down or are delayed. Laying out the ground rules–in our case, to ask that a non-lawyer be cc’d on all emails to us–helps keep the deal moving and gets the transaction finished.

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