If a lawyer gives legal advice to someone who is not his/her client, is that legal?

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Usually, a person becomes a client of a lawyer by virtue of the lawyer giving advice to them. It is quite easy for a lawyer to accidentally create a lawyer-client relationship. But, a lawyer can give legal advice to someone who is not his/her client subject primarily to the limitation of Rule of Professional Conduct 4.3 which states:

In dealing on behalf of a client with a person who is not represented by counsel, a lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer is disinterested. When the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the unrepresented person misunderstands the lawyer’s role in the matter, the lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to correct the misunderstanding. The lawyer shall not give legal advice to an unrepresented person, other than the advice to secure counsel, if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the interests of such a person are or have a reasonable possibility of being in conflict with the interests of the client.

So, basically, if a lawyer gives legal advice to someone who isn't his client, the lawyer needs to be clear that both the person is not someone with a conflict of interest with his/her client, and that the lawyer provides the disclaimer that the lawyer does not have the third-party's interests at heart when giving the advice.

If the non-client is adverse to the lawyer's client, or otherwise is in a conflict of interest with the lawyer's client, the lawyer may not give that person legal advice other than to retain a lawyer of their own.

A lawyer giving legal advice to a non-client is also subject to Rule of Professional Conduct 4.1 which requires the lawyer to be truthful in communications with third-parties. This rule states:

In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly:

(a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person; or

(b) fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client, unless disclosure is prohibited by Rule 1.6.

Note also that "legal advice" means applications of the law to a particular person's actual factual situation, for use by that person, and not merely provision of general educational information about the law.

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