I am owed some money by former employer (which I discussed in another thread). I got some of the funds back but there are other issues that need to be resolved. The other guy has a lawyer and I have decided not to get a lawyer on my side, yet. Now the opposing lawyer is not responding to my calls or emails. What are my options in this circumstance?

He has said "have your lawyer contact me." I told him I would handle it until I felt it necessary to get a lawyer. I don't think I should be forced to get one. Is there any bar association or other authority that I can contact? Is his behavior unethical? What could I do to compel him to respond to me.

  • 2
    Why do you need to contact that lawyer? If "the other guy" still owes you something just file a lawsuit and his lawyer will contact you instead.
    – Greendrake
    Sep 28, 2018 at 0:15
  • because I want to resolve the issues without the time and cost of a lawsuit
    – Sizzle
    Sep 28, 2018 at 0:27
  • 3
    They're obviously calling your bluff. They won't pay unless you make them, and you can't make them without suit.
    – user4657
    Sep 28, 2018 at 5:06
  • This is more of an assessment than a helpful answer to the question. I understand the situation. I am looking for ways to resolve it, not asses the situation.
    – Sizzle
    Sep 28, 2018 at 11:50

2 Answers 2


Is there any bar association or other authority that I can contact? Is his behavior unethical?

His behavior is unethical, but in this regard there is basically nothing you can do at this point for the reasons I explained in this other answer.

What could I do to compel him to respond to me

Consistent with Nij's comment, the closest option to "compelling" the attorney to respond --perhaps with vexatious responsive pleadings-- is by filing a lawsuit.

You are right in that you are not required to retain a lawyer. This is true even if you file a lawsuit (I myself am a pro se litigant with cases currently pending review in the SCOTUS). And the attorney definitely knows the concept of pro se litigant. He is just trying to either intimidate you, or to lure you into wasting your money with some crooked member of his "profession" till you get frustrated/penniless and desist.

In your next email (remember that everything with those people should be in writing), you could remind the attorney that his tactics of evasion will tend to hurt his client's credibility if the matter is tried by a jury.

  • I have everything in writing (emails) and make sure to start things out with "I will note that this is my 3rd attempt to get a response regarding..." I am open to any suggestions that may bear weight in intimidating him right back, such as threats to report his unethical behavior, etc.
    – Sizzle
    Sep 28, 2018 at 11:55
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    @Sizzle Unfortunately, attorneys are perfectly aware that judges and attorney grievance commissions typically do nothing about lawyers' unethical and evidenced fraudulent behavior. Moreover, most of them make a living by trying to intimidate others, whence a pro se's attempt to intimidate him back will not help under these circumstances. Depending on the Florida statute of limitations for breach of contract, it seems to me (?) that you still have plenty of time to file a lawsuit. Thus, you might want start assessing the feasibility of your claims in court and gear up accordingly. Sep 28, 2018 at 12:34
  • Is it really unethical? The lawyer's logic could well be that interacting with a non-lawyer is going to require him to do a lot of educating and hand-holding at his client's expense and that he can minimize the burden to his client by refusing to deal with a non-lawyer unless he has no choice. Feb 19, 2020 at 23:54
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    @DavidSchwartz "Is it really unethical?" Yes it is. The lawyer's response (at least to the extent portrayed by the OP) is not in the sense of "It is not my job to educate you at my client's expense" or "My client has instructed me to interact only with lawyers", but in the sense of "I feel like speaking only to other lawyers". From an ethical rather than legal standpoint, as long as a non-lawyer represents himself the lawyer has no choice but to deal with the non-lawyer. Feb 20, 2020 at 9:16

Are you willing to file a lawsuit if you have to?

If so, there may be meaningful options. If not, you can still exercise those options, but you'd just still be bluffing.

  1. As in most professions, most lawyers have bosses. If this guy works for a firm and does not have his name on the door, he's probably got someone he answers to. You could call a partner in his group and explain that you're trying to resolve this without litigation. If my boss found out I was blowing someone off -- and they seemed like a credible litigation risk -- I would be in a bad position.
  2. A lawyer's real boss is his client. Call your former employer and let them know that because the lawyer won't write you back, you're preparing to move forward with litigation.
  3. Draft a demand letter. This stops short of litigation but suggests a level of seriousness that a routine phone call or e-mail does not, and the lawyer should definitely take that to his client to decide how to respond. There are lots of free resources explaining how to do this. I haven't read it, but I'd guess that this FindLaw explainer is generally reliable.
  4. Try to engage the services of a mediator, maybe through a local chamber of commerce or BBB.
  5. Launch prelitigation discovery. I suspect that the availability of this option will depend on your jurisdiction, but in some states, you can start demanding information to use in litigation without actually filing a lawsuit.

In the end, you are right that you can't be forced to hire an attorney, but you also can't force an attorney to negotiate with you if you aren't involved in litigation. If you do get sucked into litigation, though, you can play this to your advantage by creating an extensive paper trail. Judges do not like to see that they've been drawn into a case that could have been negotiated away.

As a side note, I'm not surprised he's talking with you if your responses suggest that you may still hire a lawyer. In most circumstances, I would probably wait for an opposing litigant to unequivocally say that is representing himself before I dealt with him.

Dealing with an unrepresented party is inviting trouble, as many pro se litigants -- especially the ones who lose -- are itching for a reason to file an ethics complaint against some "crooked" lawyer. If I think someone is going to hire an attorney, I'm going to give them all the time they need to do that and avoid even the appearance that I'm trying to exploit them while they're unrepresented.

  • Thanks for your extensive answer. There is a little more to the story, that may help (law.stackexchange.com/questions/30708/…)
    – Sizzle
    Sep 30, 2018 at 17:46
  • Thelawyer works on his own. The lawyer's client-boss and I are not currently speaking, while trying to get this sorted. As far as a demand letter, there have been many back and forth negotiations already, trying to hammer this out. I was able to get paid money I was owed ($55K) and we were continuing to negotiation on "deals in process." Once I cashed the check for what I was owed, the lawyer stop responding to my efforts to move the rest forward. I have documented and numbered each missive to him, stating "let the record show this is the 4th time I am writing and have yet to see a response.."
    – Sizzle
    Sep 30, 2018 at 17:51
  • I am willing to file a lawsuit, potentially pro se, but would rather not. The lawyer had contacted me within the last 2 weeks to negotiate, even suggesting some terms for the deals-in-progress (which I have proof of). Then in his letter to me (with the check for $55K) he stated something to the effect of "you have no standing on those deals and are not owed anything." That is obviously contrary him contacting me and attempting to low-ball me just days before. Ideally, I would like to find a lawyer that would take this on contingency, if you have any suggestions for finding someone reputable.
    – Sizzle
    Sep 30, 2018 at 18:03
  • I can't make a recommendation, but I'm sure a local bar association could. Be advised, though, that this does not sound like the kind of case most firms would take on contingency.
    – bdb484
    Oct 1, 2018 at 2:17
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    I wish I had a solution for you, but those five are the best options I can think of.
    – bdb484
    Oct 3, 2018 at 21:30

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