Rule 4.4 Respect for the Rights of Third Persons

(a) In representing a client, a lawyer shall not:

(1) use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person or knowingly use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person; or

(2) threaten to present a criminal or lawyer disciplinary charge for the purpose of obtaining an advantage in a civil matter.

(b) A lawyer who receives information (including, but not limited to, a document or electronically stored information) relating to the representation of the lawyer’s client that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is protected by RPC 1.6(including information protected by the attorney-client privilege or the work-product rule) and has been disclosed to the lawyer inadvertently or by a person not authorized to disclose such information to the lawyer, shall:

(1) immediately terminate review or use of the information;

(2) notify the person, or the person’s lawyer if communication with the person is prohibited by RPC 4.2, of the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure; and

(3) abide by that person’s or lawyer’s instructions with respect to disposition of written information or refrain from using the written information until obtaining a definitive ruling on the proper disposition from a court with appropriate jurisdiction.


[1] Responsibility to a client requires a lawyer to subordinate the interests of others to those of the client, but that responsibility does not imply that a lawyer may disregard the rights of third persons. It is impractical to catalogue all such rights, but they include legal restrictions on methods of obtaining evidence from third persons and unwarranted intrusions into privileged relationships, such as the client-lawyer relationship. For example, a lawyer may not secretly record a conversation or the activities of another person if doing so would violate state or federal law specifically prohibiting such recording. Otherwise, this Rule does not prohibit secret recording so long as the lawyer has a substantial purpose other than to embarrass or burden the persons being recorded. It would be a violation of RPC 4.1 or RPC 8.4(c), however, if the lawyer stated falsely or affirmatively misled another to believe that a conversation or an activity was not being recorded. By itself, however, secret taping does not violate either RPC 8.4(c) (prohibition against dishonest or deceitful conduct) or RPC 8.4(d) (prohibition against conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.)

[2] The duties imposed by paragraph (b) on lawyers who know or who reasonably should know that they have received information protected by RPC 1.6 that was disclosed to them inadvertently or by a person not authorized to disclose the information to them reflect the importance of client-lawyer confidentiality in the jurisprudence of this state and the judgment that lawyers in their dealings with other lawyers and their clients should take the steps that are required by this Rule in the interest of protecting client-lawyer confidentiality even if it would be to the advantage of their clients to do otherwise. For purposes of this Rule, “document or electronically stored information” includes, in addition to paper documents, email, and other forms of electronically stored information, including embedded data (commonly referred to as “metadata”), that is subject to being read or put into readable form.

[3] This Rule, however, does not prohibit the receiving lawyer from seeking a definitive court ruling as to the proper disposition of such information, including a ruling regarding whether the disclosure effects a waiver of the attorney-client privilege or work-product rule. In making any disclosure to a court to obtain a ruling regarding disposition of the information, any disclosure of the information should be made in a manner that limits access to the information to the tribunal, and appropriate protective orders or other arrangements should be sought by the lawyer to the fullest extent practicable.

Definitional Cross-References

“Knows” and “knowingly” See RPC 1.0(f)

“Reasonably should know” See RPC 1.0(j)

“Substantial” See RPC 1.0(l)

“Written” See RPC 1.0(n)


Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 8: Rules of Professional Conduct Copyright © 2021 by BirdDog Law, LLC (No copyright claimed as to government works.). All Rights Reserved.