Professional Guidelines

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

The Virginia State Bar

Professional Guidelines

Rule 4.2

Communication With Persons Represented By Counsel

In representing 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 by law to do so.


[1-2] ABA Model Rule Comments not adopted.

[3] 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. A lawyer is permitted to communicate with a person represented by counsel without obtaining the consent of the lawyer currently representing that person, if that person is seeking a “second opinion” or replacement counsel.

[4] This Rule does not prohibit communication with a represented person, or an employee or agent of a represented person, concerning matters outside the representation. For example, the existence of a controversy between an organization 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, parties to a matter may communicate directly with each other and a lawyer having independent justification or legal authorization for communicating with the other party is permitted to do so.

[5] In circumstances where applicable judicial precedent has approved investigative contacts prior to attachment of the right to counsel, and they are not prohibited by any provision of the United States Constitution or the Virginia Constitution, they should be considered to be authorized by law within the meaning of the Rule. Similarly, communications in civil matters may be considered authorized by law if they have been approved by judicial precedent. This Rule does not prohibit a lawyer from providing advice regarding the legality of an interrogation or the legality of other investigative conduct.

[6] ABA Model Rule Comment not adopted.

[7] In the case of an organization, this Rule prohibits communications by a lawyer for one party concerning the matter in representation with persons in the organization's "control group" as defined in Upjohn v. United States, 449 U.S. 383 (1981) or persons who may be regarded as the "alter ego" of the organization. The "control group" test prohibits ex parte communications with any employee of an organization who, because of their status or position, have the authority to bind the corporation. Such employees may only be contacted with the consent of the organization's counsel, through formal discovery or as authorized by law. An officer or director of an organization is likely a member of that organization's "control group." The prohibition does not apply to former employees or agents of the organization, and an attorney may communicate ex parte with such former employee or agent even if he or she was a member of the organization's "control group." If an agent or employee of the organization is represented in the matter by separate counsel, the consent by that counsel to a communication will be sufficient for purposes of this Rule.

[8] This Rule covers any person, whether or not a party to a formal proceeding, who is represented by counsel concerning the matter in question. Neither the need to protect uncounselled persons against being taken advantage of by opposing counsel nor the importance of preserving the client-attorney relationship is limited to those circumstances where the represented person is a party to an adjudicative or other formal proceeding. The interests sought to be protected by the Rule may equally well be involved when litigation is merely under consideration, even though it has not actually been instituted, and the persons who are potentially parties to the litigation have retained counsel with respect to the matter in dispute.

[9] Concerns regarding the need to protect uncounselled persons against the wiles of opposing counsel and preserving the attorney-client relationship may also be involved where a person is a target of a criminal investigation, knows this, and has retained counsel to receive advice with respect to the investigation. The same concerns may be involved where a "third-party" witness furnishes testimony in an investigation or proceeding, and although not a formal party, has decided to retain counsel to receive advice with respect thereto. Such concerns are equally applicable in a non-adjudicatory context, such as a commercial transaction involving a sale, a lease or some other form of contract.

Virginia Code Comparison

This Rule is substantially the same as DR 7-103(A)(1), except for the change of "party" to "person" to emphasize that the prohibition on certain communications with a represented person applies outside the litigation context.

Committee Commentary

The Committee believed that substituting "person" for "party" more accurately reflected the intent of the Rule, as shown in the last sentence of the Comment, and was preferable to the apparent limitation of DR 7-103(A)(1) which referred to "[c]ommunicat[ion] on the subject of the representation with a party . . . ."

The following revision to Comment [3] was made to include the language of Comment [3] from the ABA rule regarding the prohibition against communicating with a represented party even when the represented person or the lawyer initiates the contact.

The amendments effective April 13, 2007, added Comment [3].

Updated: November 3, 2010