Sending Demand Letter on Behalf of Unidentified Client
Opinion rules that a lawyer may send a demand letter to the adverse party without identifying the client by name.
Attorney A is a staff attorney in a federally funded legal services program established for the purpose of providing legal services to migrant farmworkers. Attorney A is representing a migrant farmworker with minimum wage claims pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act and a claim for liquidated damages pursuant to the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. It is the independent judgment of Attorney A that the disclosure of the identity of his client in the initial demand letter to the employer-adverse party could reasonably be expected to subject the client to the possibility of physical or economic retaliation. Attorney A is fully prepared to disclose the identity of his client to the adverse party if a realistic possibility of settlement of the claim seems likely during subsequent communication with the adverse party or his counsel. Would it be ethical for Attorney A to write an initial demand letter to the employer-adverse party inviting settlement discussions without disclosing the name of the client?
Yes. Nothing in the Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits negotiating on behalf of an undisclosed principal. In the subject situation, the identity of the client would be "confidential information" subject to the protection of Rule 4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct because its disclosure likely would be detrimental to the client. Attorney A would have an obligation not to disclose the client's identity until authorized to do so by the client or until otherwise permitted to do so by the Rule. No other provision of the Rules of Professional Conduct would be offended or compromised by the conduct proposed, assuming that the client actually exists and has authorized the communication made on his or her behalf.
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