When you hire an attorney, you should be able to trust them to give you solid advice and to keep your information confidential. You can tell them almost anything without fear of negatively affecting your interests. Your attorney is ethically required to keep your information confidential.
But do you know why YOU should do the same? The main reason to keep attorney communication confidential is because it is beneficial to you, your business, and any assets you have. The reverse is also true. Telling someone else about communication with your attorney can seriously harm your business and its assets.
What Is Attorney-Client Privilege?
The attorney-client privilege is a legal concept. It means that communications between an attorney and their client are confidential. That means that almost anything you say to your attorney cannot be revealed to another party, the media, or any other third party.
What Is the Purpose of Attorney-Client Privilege?
The purpose of attorney-client privilege is to ensure you can tell your attorney the entire story about what is going on in your case. Your attorney can only provide appropriate legal advice if they understand the entire picture, including all the details you may not want anyone else to know – or that may be embarrassing. If you hide details from your attorney, you won’t receive the best advice for your situation. It is for this reason that the communication between an attorney and their client is protected as confidential.
Who Is Protected by Attorney-Client Privilege?
Any client of an attorney is protected by attorney-client privilege when they share details of their case with their attorney or the attorney’s staff. The attorney-client relationship is established when the client engages an attorney to represent them, and the attorney agrees.
Not everyone who interacts with an attorney is a client. For example, if you simply browse a legal website and read legal blogs, it does not establish an attorney-client relationship because you are not actually receiving legal advice about your specific case from an attorney that you hired. Any information on that website is educational and informational in nature only.
If you have a consultation with an attorney that you expect will be confidential, but never hire them, the information you share is kept confidential. You are a potential client, and they will not share the information you discussed.
What You Do NOT Want To Do With Attorney-Client Information?
Voluntary Waiver of Attorney-Client Privilege
One of the most common situations in which the attorney-client privilege is waived is when a person does so voluntarily. For example, a waiver may occur if you forward an email from your attorney about a legal matter to a friend or colleague, with a message such as, “Here’s what my attorney said.” A waiver may also occur if you have repeat conversations about advice your attorney has given.
The short list of examples of attorney-client waiver includes:
- Forwarding emails from an attorney to an outside party
- Discussing details of a case with a third party
- Repeating a conversation with an attorney to someone else
- Having a third-party present during an attorney meeting
- Posting on social media about legal advice
- Recording a conversation with an attorney and sharing it with others
- Testifying about legal advice given by an attorney
- Signing a waiver of attorney-client privilege
You should discuss your specific situation with your attorney before sharing any information they give you. This applies to friends, family, and even your spouse and children. Keep all legal advice completely confidential to protect your own best interests.
Other Exclusions to the Attorney-Client Privilege
There are other limited exclusions to the attorney-client privilege such as:
- Death of a client
- If your attorney has a fiduciary duty to another relevant party
- If you are seeking legal advice for the purpose of committing crime or fraud
- If you and another party have common interests
- To protect the United States and its citizens against terrorism
Why Is It Important to Keep Your Attorney Communication Confidential?
If you fail to keep your attorney communications confidential, you could expose yourself to further liability and waive the privacy that you have with your attorney. Your case may be compromised, and communication between you and your attorney can be used against you. Your attorney and parties with whom you shared the information may be required to disclose the information, or they may testify at hearings about that information that was once private. It is in your best interests to maintain confidentiality with all attorney communications.
Contact S. Burns Legal LLC for Trusted Advice
Attorney Susan Burns and her staff have worked with countless clients who need to keep the details of their cases confidential. If you need trusted legal advice, grab a spot on my calendar to find out how we can help you.