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Is is a breach of ethics in California for an attorney representing a client in a civil matter to discuss their client's case in detail with potential co-counsel without the client's knowledge or consent?

In this case I found out about the conversations only when told by my [long-since former] attorney that they had engaged co-counsel. Speaking of which, is is ethically acceptable in California for an attorney to bring onboard co-counsel without mentioning it first?

(Obviously this is not hypothetical. The matter was settled - by a different attorney - years ago. I was reminded of it when going through some old records and am asking about it now so I can properly calibrate my gauge of appropriate behavior in the future.)

  • Did you sign a retainer agreement? Does the "co-attorney" work with/for the primary attorney? What is the relationship between the two attorneys? – Ron Beyer Jun 17 '18 at 2:31
  • They each have their own unrelated practice. I had not at that time signed a retainer, but I had discussed what was a confidential business matter at length with the first attorney who had assured me in advance that the conversation was privileged. (If it makes a difference - and I would hope it might, as "co-counsel" means "more money" - the matter was one in which attorney fees were non-discretionary in the event of a win.) – CrosswordPuzzlz Jun 17 '18 at 2:46
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    Discussing the case with another lawyer (assuming protection of confidentiality) seems entirely reasonable. Hiring another lawyer to assist should certainly be discussed with the client if the bill will rise accordingly, but otherwise is a decision a lawyer can and should take. – Tim Lymington Jun 17 '18 at 12:37

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