Do you participate in negotiations, or at least listen in, between your company and a vendor that does not have legal counsel? What if they do have legal counsel but the vendor's sales team has not brought counsel in? I try not to attend such meetings but the non-lawyers (including other side sometimes!) say it's fine, they need help with drafting, deal is urgent, etc.

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Absolutely not. If their counsel is not on the call, I will not attend.

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If they have counsel and I don’t have the consent of that counsel to participate without them, then I don’t.

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I listen in but tell them in advance that I won’t be speaking. I also am very choosy about which of these calls I’ll join. 95% of the time sales doesn’t actually need legal - I’ll only join if the subject is particularly tricky or specific

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I’ve drawn a hard line on this with my team. I typically won’t join at all as this really is our contracts/procurement teams’ jobs, so I support from the background and prepare them as much as possible. For thorny issues, I’ll ask the other side’s counsel to join. If they don’t have counsel, I’ll join in listening mode and announce my intention to do so at the beginning of the call and keep my interactions to a minimum.

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If the other side doesn’t have counsel, you can negotiate. The rule states that you can’t talk to a non-lawyer who you know is represented by counsel.

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This is definitely the correct rule, but I still feel super awkward negotiating with unrepresented parties (especially small businesses). My problem is that I quickly end up explaining legal concepts to them in a way that starts making me feel like they’re my client instead of an adverse party, so I try to avoid it.

I have attend sometimes to take notes about what the business teams work out and take those change requests away for a next version. I try not to as much as possible or get their attorney on. Sometimes I’ll have them expound on comments they have made without discussing, but if I’m going to be talking I make clear that I’m not there to discuss or negotiate, at most just to explain comments we’ve already made and tell them to work it out with their counsel. This is all small business stuff, sometimes vendors or customers I’m personally responsible for. Nothing would get done otherwise but fortunately this is very rare and I prep the business team to explain or ask for comments as much as possible.

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