Liberty Lawyer agency

Attorney-Client Privilege

Communications between an attorney and their clients are privileged, most of the time. Know your rights.

Most people know that when they speak to an attorney, there is a privilege that attaches to anything said to their attorney. That means that the client can tell their attorney almost anything and the attorney may not divulge it to anyone without the privilege being waived by the client. If the client does not want whatever he/she said to their attorney repeated, all they need do is refuse to waive their privilege and the attorney is not able to repeat it to anyone.

However, to bring any communication within the rule of law, the statement must be made within the context of "professional employment" or it is not considered privileged. For instance, if an attorney and his 3 friends are playing golf and one of them confesses to committing a crime while they're golfing, that is not a privileged communication and it could be repeated without recourse by the attorney. In fact, the attorney could be forced to disclose it under the appropriate circumstances, like being Subpoenaed before a Grand Jury.

For an attorney/client privilege to exist, the client must have consulted with the attorney seeking legal advice -whether or not a fee has been paid, although the payment of a fee is good proof of a professional relationship between the parties. The privilege also extends to the attorney's employees, who may not discuss or disclose any privileged information they may come upon during the term of the attorney's employment with that client. However, it’s important to know that the professional employment must be in relation to the privileged information communicated to the attorney or his/her employees.

One thing to remember is that once an attorney refuses to take the client on as a client, or finishes his/her employment efforts for that client, then anything else that's communicated by the client is no longer privileged and it may be disclosed by the attorney or his/her employees.

Another interesting thing to remember is if the communication is not made in furtherance of the particular reason the attorney was being employed to do, then that communication is no longer privileged either. If the person who has been told a secret has presented himself as an attorney and is actually no longer an attorney, then the privilege does not exist. If the client has been informed that the attorney is no longer available to be his/her attorney and the client refuses to accept such an answer and instead informs the attorney of the facts of the case and the attorney is now a Judge or a DA, that is no longer a privileged communication and it may be disclosed under Subpoena.

Any communication that a client views as privileged must be apparent that it is confidential and told to the attorney in confidence. That conclusion would be negated by the fact that the client told the attorney said information in the company of another party who was not an employee or another attorney. In such a situation, it clearly shows that the client really did not expect the communication to be confidential because he/she told it to the attorney at the same time as he/she told a non-attorney.

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