Must an attorney identify themselves as such when texting?

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Must an attorney identify themselves as such when texting?

My ex informed my of the fact that she was getting her legal services for free because she was getting married to her lawyer via text. The conversation was pertaining to the custody of my 7 year old. As the conversation continued via text, I noticed that the verbiage was not the type my ex used, but more that of an attorney. I asked who I was communicating with and he identified himself as the lawyer that my ex was marrying. He had used the verbiage passing him off as my ex and I was discussing personal information thinking I was speaking to my ex. Is this legal for him to impersonate her?

Asked on August 17, 2010 under Family Law, Florida

Answers:

Sarah Grosse

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

As a general rule, an attorney need not identify him/herself as such.  However, there are exceptions.  An attorney must conform to specific rules for SOLICITATION and ADVERTISING of services to non-clients, including identifying him/herself properly.  An attorney must NOT contact a party who is represented by a attorney in a particular matter regarding the substance of that matter.

You did not say specifically whether the attorney in question represents your ex in this child custody matter, and you did not say whether you have an attorney in his matter.  If the attorney was simply contacting you as the ex's new partner, not as an attorney representing a party in the matter, then there is no ethical rule which prohibits him from doing so.   Even if the attorney is representing your ex in this matter, if you are not also represented by an attorney, there is no rule which prohibits him from contacting you directly (whether identifying himself properly or not). 

You should be careful about what you say to anyone except your lawyer regarding the substance of a pending case.  Your statements, while hearsay, may be admissible in court under certain circumstances/exceptions.  It is advisable for you to seek an attorney to represent you in this child custody dispute. 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It would be worthwhile for you to contact your state bar association and also the agency of the state court system which licenses and oversees attorneys, to bring this to their attention. At the minimum, this is an ethically "grey" area; however, there is a real chance that there was an ethical violation. An attorney *can* propose verbiage which a client can adopt or use, word for word--but then, while the attorney came up with the language, it is going out over the client's name and signature. What you describe--an attorney representing himself as another person and communicating under another's identify--goes substantially beyond that and may constitute an ethical violation. Good luck.


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