Rule 4.2 Communication with Person Represented by Counsel
(a) During the representation of 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 or is authorized to do so by law or a court order. It is not a violation of this rule for a lawyer to encourage his or her client to discuss the subject of the representation with the opposing party in a good-faith attempt to resolve the controversy.
(b) Notwithstanding section (a) above, in representing a client who has a dispute with a government agency or body, a lawyer may communicate about the subject of the representation with the elected officials who have authority over such government agency or body even if the lawyer knows that the government agency or body is represented by another lawyer in the matter, but such communications may only occur under the following circumstances:
(1) in writing, if a copy of the writing is promptly delivered to opposing counsel;
(2) orally, upon adequate notice to opposing counsel; or
(3) in the course of official proceedings.
 This Rule contributes to the proper functioning of the legal system by protecting a person who has chosen to be represented by a lawyer in a matter against possible overreaching by other lawyers who are participating in the matter, interference by those lawyers with the client-lawyer relationship and the uncounselled disclosure of information relating to the representation.
 This Rule does not prohibit a lawyer who does not have a client relative to a particular matter from consulting with a person or entity who, though represented concerning the matter, seeks another opinion as to his or her legal situation. A lawyer from whom such an opinion is sought should, but is not required to, inform the first lawyer of his or her participation and advice.
 This Rule does not prohibit communication with a represented person, or an employee or agent of such a person, concerning matters outside the representation. For example, the existence of a controversy between a government agency and a private party, or between two organizations, does not prohibit a lawyer for either from communicating with nonlawyer representatives of the other regarding a separate matter. Also, a lawyer having independent justification or legal authorization for communicating with a represented person is permitted to do so.
 A lawyer may not make a communication prohibited by this Rule through the acts of another. See Rule 8.4(a). However, parties to a matter may communicate directly with each other, and a lawyer is not prohibited from advising a client or, in the case of a government lawyer, investigatory personnel, concerning a communication that the client, or such investigatory personnel, is legally entitled to make. The Rule is not intended to discourage good faith efforts by individual parties to resolve their differences. Nor does the Rule prohibit a lawyer from encouraging a client to communicate with the opposing party with a view toward the resolution of the dispute.
 Communications authorized by law may include communications by a lawyer on behalf of a client who is exercising a constitutional or other legal right to communicate with the government. When a government agency or body is represented with regard to a particular matter, a lawyer may communicate with the elected government officials who have authority over that agency under the circumstances set forth in paragraph (b).
 Communications authorized by law may also include investigative activities of lawyers representing governmental entities, directly or through investigative agents, prior to the commencement of criminal or civil enforcement proceedings. When communicating with the accused in a criminal matter, a government lawyer must comply with this Rule in addition to honoring the constitutional rights of the accused. The fact that a communication does not violate a state or federal constitutional right is insufficient to establish that the communication is permissible under this Rule.
 A lawyer who is uncertain whether a communication with a represented person is permissible may seek a court order. A lawyer may also seek a court order in exceptional circumstances to authorize a communication that would otherwise be prohibited by this Rule, for example, where communication with a person represented by counsel is necessary to avoid reasonably certain injury.
 This Rule applies to communications with any person, whether or not a party to a formal adjudicative proceeding, contract or negotiation, who is represented by counsel concerning the matter to which the communication relates. The Rule applies even though the represented person initiates or consents to the communication. A lawyer must immediately terminate communication with a person if, after commencing communication, the lawyer learns that the person is one with whom communication is not permitted by this Rule.
 In the case of a represented organization, this Rule prohibits communications with a constituent of the organization who supervises, directs or consults with the organization's lawyer concerning the matter or has authority to obligate the organization with respect to the matter or whose act or omission in connection with the matter may be imputed to the organization for purposes of civil or criminal liability. It also prohibits communications with any constituent of the organization, regardless of position or level of authority, who is participating or participated substantially in the legal representation of the organization in a particular matter. Consent of the organization's lawyer is not required for communication with a former constituent unless the former constituent participated substantially in the legal representation of the organization in the matter. If an employee or agent of the organization is represented in the matter by his or her own counsel, the consent by that counsel to a communication would be sufficient for purposes of this Rule. Compare Rule 3.4(f). In communicating with a current or former constituent of an organization, a lawyer must not use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of the organization. See Rule 4.4, Comment .
 The prohibition on communications with a represented person only applies in circumstances where the lawyer knows that the person is in fact represented in the matter to be discussed. This means that the lawyer has actual knowledge of the fact of the representation; but such actual knowledge may be inferred from the circumstances. See Rule 1.0(g). Thus, the lawyer cannot evade the requirement of obtaining the consent of counsel by closing eyes to the obvious.
 In the event the person with whom the lawyer communicates is not known to be represented by counsel in the matter, the lawyer's communications are subject to Rule 4.3.
History Note: Statutory Authority G.S. 84-23
Adopted by the Supreme Court: July 24, 1997
Amendments Approved by the Supreme Court: March 1, 2003
Ethics Opinion Notes
CPR 2. An attorney generally does not need the consent of the adverse party to talk to witnesses.
CPR 138. An attorney representing a party may not send copies of motions to another party he knows has counsel.
RPC 15. Opinion rules that attorney may interview person with an adverse interest who is unrepresented and make a demand or propose a settlement.
RPC 30. Opinion rules that District Attorney may not communicate or cause another to communicate with represented defendant without the defense lawyer's consent.
RPC 39. Opinion rules that an attorney may not communicate settlement demands directly to an insurance company which has employed counsel to represent its insured unless that lawyer consents.
RPC 61. Opinion rules that a defense attorney may interview a child who is the prosecuting witness in a molestation case without the knowledge or consent of the district attorney.
RPC 67. Opinion rules that an attorney generally may interview a rank and file employee of an adverse corporate party without the knowledge or consent of the corporate party or its counsel.
RPC 81. Opinion rules that a lawyer may interview an unrepresented former employee of an adverse corporate party without the permission of the corporation's lawyer.
RPC 87. Opinion rules that a lawyer wishing to interview a witness who is not a party, but who is represented by counsel, must obtain the consent of the witness' lawyer.
RPC 93. Opinion concerns several situations in which an attorney who represents a criminal defendant wishes to interview other individuals who are represented by attorneys who will not agree to permit the attorney to interview their clients. In the first inquiry, Attorney A wishes to interview criminal defendant B, who has been indicted in a separate indictment from Attorney A's client. In the second inquiry, Attorney A wishes to interview criminal defendant B, who has been named as a criminal coconspirator with Aclient, but has not yet been joined as a codefendant for trial. In the third inquiry, Attorney A wishes to interview a coconspirator who was named in the same indictment with A's client.
RPC 110. Opinion rules that an attorney employed by an insurer to defend in the name of the defendant pursuant to underinsured motorist coverage may not communicate with that individual without the consent of another attorney employed to represent that individual by her liability insurer and that the attorney employed by the liability insurer may not take a position on behalf of the insured which is adverse to the insured.
RPC 128. Opinion rules that a lawyer may not communicate with an adverse corporate party's house counsel, who appears in the case as a corporate manager, without the consent of the corporation's independent counsel.
RPC 132. Opinion rules that a lawyer for a party adverse to the government may freely communicate with government officials concerning the matter until notified that the government is represented in the matter.
RPC 162. Opinion rules that an attorney may not communicate with the opposing party's nonparty treating physician about the physician's treatment of the opposing party unless the opposing party consents.
RPC 180. Opinion rules that a lawyer may not passively listen while the opposing party's nonparty treating physician comments on his or her treatment of the opposing party unless the opposing party consents.
RPC 184. Opinion rules that a lawyer for an opposing party may communicate directly with the pathologist who performed an autopsy on the plaintiff's decedent without the consent of the personal representative for the decedent's estate.
RPC 193. Opinion rules that the attorney for the plaintiffs in a personal injury action arising out of a motor vehicle accident may interview the unrepresented defendant even though the uninsured motorist insurer, which has elected to defend the claim in the name of the defendant, is represented by an attorney in the matter.
RPC 202. Opinion rules that an attorney may communicate in writing with the members of an elected body that is represented by a lawyer in a matter if the purpose of the communication is to request that the matter be placed on the public meeting agenda of the elected body and a copy of the written communication is given to the attorney for the elected body.
RPC 219. Opinion rules that a lawyer may communicate with a custodian of public records, pursuant to the North Carolina Public Records Act, for the purpose of making a request to examine public records related to the representation although the custodian is an adverse party whose lawyer does not consent to the communication.
RPC 224. Opinion prohibits the employer's lawyer from engaging in direct communications with the treating physician for an employee with a workers' compensation claim.
RPC 233. Opinion rules that a deputy attorney general who is representing the state on the appeal of a death sentence should send a copy to the defense lawyer of a letter he received from the defendant.
RPC 249. Opinion rules that a lawyer may not communicate with a child who is represented by a GAL and an attorney advocate unless the lawyer obtains the consent of the attorney advocate.
97 Formal Ethics Opinion 2. Opinion rules that a lawyer may interview an unrepresented former employee of an adverse represented organization about the subject of the representation unless the former employee participated substantially in the legal representation of the organization in the matter.
97 Formal Ethics Opinion 10. Opinion rules that a prosecutor may instruct a law enforcement officer to send an undercover officer into the prison cell of a represented criminal defendant to observe the defendant's communications with other inmates in the cell.
99 Formal Ethics Opinion 10. Opinion rules that a government lawyer working on a fraud investigation may instruct an investigator to interview employees of the target organization provided the investigator does not interview an employee who participates in the legal representation of the organization or an officer or manager of the organization who has the authority to speak for and bind the organization.
2002 Formal Ethics Opinion 8. Opinion rules that a lawyer who is appointed the guardian ad litem for a minor plaintiff in a tort action and is represented in this capacity by legal counsel, must be treated by opposing counsel as a represented party and, therefore, direct contact with the guardian ad litem, without consent of counsel, is prohibited.
2002 Formal Ethics Opinion 2. Opinion rules that a lawyer may represent a party suing a public body or non-profit organization, although the lawyer's partner or associate serves on the board, subject to certain conditions.
2003 Formal Ethics Opinion 4. Opinion rules that a lawyer may not proffer evidence gained during a private investigator's verbal communication with an opposing party known to be represented by legal counsel unless the lawyer discloses the source of the evidence to the opposing lawyer and to the court prior to the proffer.
2004 Formal Ethics Opinion 4. Opinion rules that a lawyer may ask questions of a deponent that were recommended by another lawyer, although the deponent is the defendant in the other lawyer's case, provided notice of the deposition is given to the deponent's lawyer.
2005 Formal Ethics Opinion 5. Opinion explores the extent to which a lawyer may communicate with employees or officials of a represented government entity.
2006 Formal Ethics Opinion 19. Opinion rules that the prohibition against communications with represented persons does not apply to a lawyer acting solely as a guardian ad litem.
2009 Formal Ethics Opinion 7. Opinion rules that a criminal defense lawyer or a prosecutor may not interview an unrepresented child who is the alleged victim in a criminal case alleging physical or sexual abuse if the child is younger than the age of maturity as determined by the General Assembly for the purpose of an in-custody interrogation (currently age 14) unless the lawyer has the consent of a non-accused parent or guardian or a court order allows the lawyer to seek an interview with the child without such consent; a lawyer may interview a child who is this age or older without such consent or authorization provided the lawyer complies with Rule 4.3, reasonably determines that the child is sufficiently mature to understand the lawyer’s role and purpose, and avoids any conduct designed to coerce or intimidate the child.
2010 Formal Ethics Opinion 5. Opinion rules that the lawyer for a child support enforcement program that brings an action for child support on behalf of the government does not have a client-lawyer relationship with the custodian of the children.
2011 Formal Ethics Opinion 15. Opinion rules that, pursuant to the North Carolina Public Records Act, a lawyer may communicate with a government official for the purpose of identifying a custodian of public records and with the custodian of public records to make a request to examine public records related to the representation although the custodian is an adverse party, or an employee of an adverse party, whose lawyer does not consent to the communication.
2012 Formal Ethics Opinion 7. Opinion provides that consent from the lawyer for a represented person must be obtained before copying that person on electronic communications; however, the consent required by Rule 4.2 may be implied by the facts and circumstances surrounding the communication.
2012 Formal Ethics Opinion 9. Opinion holds that a lawyer asked to represent a child in a contested custody or visitation case should decline the appointment unless the order of appointment identifies the lawyer’s role and specifies the responsibilities of the lawyer.
2014 Formal Ethics Opinion 9. Opinion rules that a private lawyer may supervise an investigation involving misrepresentation if done in pursuit of a public interest and certain conditions are satisfied.
2018 Formal Ethics Opinion 5. Opinion reviews a lawyer’s professional responsibilities when seeking access to a person’s profile, pages, and posts on a social network to investigate a client’s legal matter.
2022 Formal Ethics Opinion 2. Opinion rules that a privately retained lawyer may provide limited representation to a criminal defendant who has been appointed counsel if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances.