Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Recent News
Home / Bar Buzz / ABA issues guidance for lawyers on email protocols
Close-up of a man's hands and suit jacket sleeves typing on a laptop keyboard image

ABA issues guidance for lawyers on email protocols

Hitting “reply all” on an email can be dicey for just about anyone, but lawyers need to be especially careful when corresponding electronically.

On Nov. 2, the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility released a formal opinion providing guidance to lawyers, cautioning them to generally refrain from including their clients when sending emails to opposing lawyers.

According to an ABA news release, Formal Opinion 503 explores communications and the scope of ABA Model Rule 4.2, which is commonly called the “no-contact” or “anticontact” rule and is part of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

Under the new opinion, lawyers would not be tagged with a violation of Rule 4.2 if they respond to a group email or text sent by the opposing counsel with a “reply all,” even if that communication includes the opposing counsel’s client, according to the release.

“Absent special circumstances, lawyers who copy their clients on emails or other forms of electronic communication to counsel representing another person in the matter [imply] consent to a ‘reply all’ response from the receiving counsel,” the opinion said. “Accordingly, the reply all communication would not violate Model Rule 4.2.”

According to the release, Formal Opinion 503 suggests that lawyers “who would like to avoid consenting to such communication should forward the email or text to the client separately or inform the receiving counsel in advance that including the client on the electronic communication does not constitute consent to a reply all communication.”

The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility periodically issues ethics opinions to guide lawyers, courts and the public in interpreting and applying ABA model ethics rules to specific issues of legal practice, client-lawyer relationships and judicial behavior. In late September, the committee issued an opinion, also focusing on Model Rule 4.2, which noted that a lawyer who is self-represented cannot contact an opposing individual who is represented by counsel and must go through that individual’s attorney for communications.

Other recent ABA ethics opinions are available on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility web page.

Leave a Reply