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By: Greg Fayard
At some point in their career, lawyers deal with the unrepresented—or pro pers. In California, there’s now an ethical rule that governs how to fairly and properly engage with opposing parties who do not have lawyers.
Rule 4.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for California lawyers says a lawyer cannot tell an unrepresented party he or she is disinterested or neutral. If the lawyer reasonably believes the pro per thinks the opposing lawyer is neutral, the lawyer needs to make a reasonable effort to correct that misunderstanding.
If a lawyer knows or suspects the interests of the unrepresented person conflicts with the lawyer’s client, the lawyer cannot give legal advice to him or her, but may advise the person to get counsel. Further, lawyers shall not try to get privileged or confidential information from pro pers. Under Rule 4.3, a lawyer can negotiate with unrepresented parties, but the lawyer must disclose that he or she represents an opposing party.
The policy behind this rule is fairness to pro pers, and to not take advantage of them because they do not have counsel.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Greg Fayard at firstname.lastname@example.org, or any other member of our Lawyers Professional Liability Practice Group, a list of which can be found at stage.fmglaw.com.