A protracted dispute between the widow of a deceased partner and the surviving partner concerning the disposition of the partnership assets, in which both parties were represented by counsel, has been resolved except with respect to one piece of property, Because of the relatively small amount involved, the lawyer for the surviving partner desires to save his client the expense of litigation, However, he cannot even ascertain what the widow claims because her lawyer refuses to answer his letters or telephone calls, other than to state on one recent occasion that he “no longer controlled his client and she no longer sought his advice as regularly as formerly”. The lawyer for the surviving partner believes that the widow’s lawyer is not now interested in the matter, has not endeavored to contact the widow, and in all probability no longer represents her, He asks if, in the circumstances, it would be proper for him to communicate with the widow for the purpose of discussing the possibility of settlement, notifying the lawyer that he is doing so. He further asks, in the event that that would he improper, if it would be permissible for a new attorney, retained to replace him, to contact the widow directly.
Under the circumstances, there would appear to be no legitimate reason to doubt that the widow is represented by counsel. Whatever may be said of her attorney’s conduct, he does represent her so far as the inquiring attorney is concerned. It would therefore be improper to communicate with the widow, absent her attorney’s consent. See, DR 7-104(A)(l), EC 7-18; also see, N.Y. County 531 (1964). The inquiring attorney may of course submit a settlement offer by his client to the widow’s attorney, who would then be under a duty to inform his client of the receipt of such offer. ABA 326 (1970).
The retention of another lawyer to replace the inquiring attorney would not alter the situation, The inquiring attorney is ethically bound to inform his successor of the facts within his knowledge relating to the widow’s representation by counsel. Accordingly, any successor would be compelled to follow the same course of conduct as the inquiring attorney.
March 14, 1974.