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What to Do When Opposing Counsel Doesn’t Return Your Calls

Monica H Logan


  • Tips to work with unresponsive counsel.
  • Try alternative strategies.
  • Alert the Court.
  • Call for assistance.
What to Do When Opposing Counsel Doesn’t Return Your Calls
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One of the most valuable assets for your client is your relationship with opposing counsel. Amicable opposing counsel effectively communicates their client’s position and moves toward a resolution. On the other hand, unprofessional or uncooperative opposing counsel can stall the progress of your client’s case. A communication breakdown, such as when your calls go unanswered, can be particularly frustrating.

Although it is easy to see unresponsiveness as a personal insult, there may be other explanations. Opposing counsel may not think this matter is an urgent priority. Their client may be ignoring their own communications, or they need time to form a detailed response. They may be dealing with a personal issue and are uncomfortable sharing it. When opposing counsel is not replying, resist the temptation to automatically assume a nefarious motive.

Knowing the basis for a counsel’s silence can help you either resolve the issue or protect your client. There may be times when you need to know the opposing party’s position before you can file a motion or move forward on a case. To be a diligent advocate, do your best to connect with opposing counsel. Here are a few options for how to handle an unresponsive counsel.

1. Try Alternative Strategies

The first option is to reach out via all available appropriate methods of communication. Try multiple contact points at least once at varying times. The person you’re attempting to contact may be in an area with little to no cell reception, so an email may be better than a call. If this does not work, reach out to counsel’s assistant or others in their office. They may know more about the attorney’s situation. Explain in your messages what you need and when, affording a reasonable amount of time for a response.

2. Alert the Court

If you still do not hear back, you may need to notify the court. Be prepared to possibly provide documentation of your attempts at contact. Demonstrating your communication efforts may protect your client’s interest and convey to the court that they may need to reach out to the attorney. How and when to alert the court to this issue will depend on the posture of the case and the applicable rules in your jurisdiction.

3. Call for Assistance

If opposing counsel is not responding to you or anyone else, it may be time to call your state attorney assistance program. Attorney counselors may be able to contact the attorney directly. The American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs maintains a directory of attorney assistance programs by state.

As frustrating as it can be, there is no surefire way of knowing what is happening on the other side of the table. Building a polite and cordial relationship from the start can potentially avoid these situations. Professional civility engenders trust, which can pave the way for a matter’s satisfactory conclusion.