I often participate in negotiations across from customers with my business team. I always remind our sales team that I can only attend if the other side has a lawyer along or the lawyer representing them consents to me being there without him/her there. I’m getting a lot of resistance and confusion both from my internal clients and the company’s external clients. Am I being too conservative with how I’m complying with the ethical rules? Any advice on how to better explain this to non lawyers?

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I follow the same rules as OP. That said I don’t believe there is an issue being present if the other side has no in-house counsel and has chosen not to hire an attorney.

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Correct. And the rule refers to representation for a particular matter. Just because there is in-house on the other side, it doesn't mean that in-house is representing on that particular matter.

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I do the same thing. I used to allow waivers from officers of a company but I don’t do that either anymore. A lot of the “meetings” were turning into the other side (sans Counsel) asking me to explain things to them. I had multiple occurrences where the other side acted like I was a neutral party to walk them through the agreement too. It put me in a weird ethical space and I really didn’t like it.
I also leave meetings if the other side’s counsel leaves mid-call.

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Yeah I just say I’m my company’s lawyer so they need to check what I’m saying against with their lawyers. Then I say, from my perspective this is how I see thing language.

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In an organizational role, you're not a lawyer negotiating on behalf of your client. You *are* the client. In-house transactional lawyers regularly negotiate directly with customers' sales teams without the customers' legal counsel present, and vice versa.

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Whoa, I think you should re-read those ethic rules, my dude

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In addition to what others have said, if the other party’s counsel cannot attend and I haven’t been able to reach the other party’s counsel, I overemphasize at the beginning and end of the call (and throughout if we’re discussing anything particularly thorny) that they should seek the advice of the their attorney before making a decision about whatever it is we’re discussing.

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Seconding this. We frequently interact with small businesses that do not have counsel for negotiations and won’t get counsel. When I am forced to interact with them, I hammer the point about who my client is repeatedly and try to similarly remind them that I cannot answer their questions except as to what our position is and why.

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If the other side has a lawyer, you can’t be on without that person.

I’ve made it very clear that potential disciplinary actions against me (personally) that could ruin my career and legal license are not things I’m willing to put in jeopardy.

Don’t really care how conservative it is. No one is asking any of the business people to take on personal liability in their deals, so not sure why I would be asked to do so.

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I’m very blunt about this, OP. I will absolutely say no to my team if I need to. The idea that lawyers make things worse and escalates the situation seems to sell well. I’ve found that preparing my team with talking points and detailed comments makes a huge difference. Essentially, the more confident they are on their own the less likely they are to want me on the call.

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You are correct in your approach OP. Tell your clients there are legal ethics implications in having a licensed attorney attend meetings with another party represented by counsel, if their counsel is not also attending. Make them take responsibility of their own deals, coordinate negotiation meetings, and engage in the business discussions with the customers (ie, don’t let them just toss the contract over the fence to legal dept and expect you to drive it). If I am on a call and learn the other party didn’t bring legal, I’ll either (1) politely drop off, or (2) explain to the other party’s biz people that with their consent you can stay on the call solely in a capacity to listen and explain your client’s position. However, as their counsel is not present emphasize that the discussion is just informational and no legally binding decisions will be made between the parties during that call. Use some judgment on the subject matter - #2 may not always be an appropriate approach. Also make sure your internal clients understand the flip side of this - and they should not engage in conversations with other party’s legal counsel without you.

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Don't get on the call if their lawyer isn't there as well. Tell your internal clients that you could be at risk of being dis-barred if you get reported. That makes it easiest.

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