The anti-contact rule, also known as rule 4.2 of professional conduct, is a rule prohibiting lawyers from discussing subject matter of any case they’re working on with someone 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.
To breach the anti-contact rule, the lawyer must actually know the client is represented. That said, courts will infer actual knowledge from the circumstances and a lawyer cannot close their eyes to the obvious. Additionally, the parties are not limited to the parties in the litigation and the contact does not need to be significant. For example, some courts have found that contacting a party to inform them that their deposition’s time has changed is sufficient contact to breach the anti-contact rule. A breach of the anti-contact rule can lead to sanctions for the breaching lawyer.
The goal of the anti-contact rule is to reduce the chance that a lawyer could take advantage of an unsophisticated party and increase the odds of a settlement by ensuring that all communication between parties occurs through the presumably more experienced legal counsel.
[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]