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Your Lawyer: A User's Guide

by Lawrence J. Fox and Susan R. Martyn

A. Opposing Parties: Why Hiring a Lawyer Gives You Special Protection from the Other Side's Lawyer

I'm sick and tired of that insurance person bugging me about settling the accident case that hurt my back last month. What can I do?

I know it sounds like pure self-promotion, but one great reason to hire a lawyer is so you don't have to deal with the lawyer on the other side yourself. There is an ethics rule that says a lawyer may not contact the client on the other side without the permission of that client's lawyer.

So if you represent my company, the lawyer on the other side can't contact any of my employees?

Not quite. It's a little complicated, but once we represent your company, the adverse lawyer cannot talk to some of your employees. Those, like you, who deal with us on the questions relating to the matter, or any employees whose conduct is involved in the matter. Think about your company sued in a truck accident. The lawyer can't contact the truck driver, but could contact your relief driver riding in the back.

What if my lawyer's the problem? And I want to talk to the lawyer on the other side?

She shouldn't talk to you without your lawyer's permission.

But I don't want my lawyer to know.

Then you have to fire your lawyer.

Will the other lawyer then talk to me?

Only when the other side's lawyer confirms that your lawyer knows she's fired.

How paternalistic!

We would say protective. Remember, the other side's lawyer has her client's best interest at heart, not yours. We don't want vulnerable clients talking to the lawyer on the other side before the clients hear from their lawyer why that is not advisable.

What if we think the lawyer on the other side isn't passing on our settlement offers?

If you want to be sure your settlement offers are getting through, there is a way.

What's that?

You, the client, can talk to the other client directly. That's always permissible.


1. Are you my lawyer?
2. Whose lawyer are you?
3. I have my own lawyer, why aren't you talking to him or her?
4. What do you advise I do?

Chapter 11: What Is a Successful Client-Lawyer Relationship? »