Legal Ethics

If Secret Email Surfaces, ABA Opinion Says Opponent Alert Isn't a Must--But Local Rules May Differ


If you represent an employer who turns out to have copies of an employee’s email to counsel on a workplace computer or smartphone, the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct probably don’t require disclosure to the opposing side in litigation.

However, rules of civil procedure or case law in that jurisdiction may impose such a requirement—which, if violated, then also violates the ABA attorney ethics rules, too, explained the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility in an ethics opinion (PDF) announced in a press release today.

The Model Rules are used by many states as a basis for their own attorney ethics rules.

For more details about what is required, read the full opinion, which is known as Formal Opinion 11-460 (PDF).

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Is a Client Sending You Email on a Work Computer? Duty to Warn Could Apply, ABA Opinion Says”

ABAJournal.com: “New ABA Ethics Opinion Gives Guidance on Changing Legal Fee Arrangements During Representation”

Last updated at 6:28 p.m. to link to ABA press release.

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