What is Attorney-Client Privilege and How Does It Work?
Attorney-Client privilege is an evidentiary rule that protects the confidentiality of certain oral or written communications between a lawyer and a client. The rule prevents attorneys from revealing the content of protected communications to a third party.
The purpose of the privilege is to encourage candid and honest communication between clients and attorneys. It permits clients to speak freely without fearing that a court will compel their lawyer to testify about the information they’ve shared, or that the opposing party will seek this information in a discovery request. On the other hand, it makes lawyers more likely to obtain the client’s full story and provide the best possible legal advice based on the information given.
When Does the Attorney-Client Privilege Apply?
Not every communication between lawyer and client is protected. For the privilege to exist, the communications between attorney and client must be:
- made for the purpose of obtaining or giving legal advice, and
- intended to be confidential.
Although these rules may seem straightforward, both the client and attorney must be careful to ensure that they don’t inadvertently waive the privilege.
How to Maintain the Privilege
To maintain the privilege, both you and your attorney must take steps to ensure that no one outside of members of the legal team hears or reads the protected communications, whether intentionally or accidentally. You may be tempted to discuss your attorney communication exchanges with a third party, but this act jeopardizes the privilege. Even if you speak with your attorney in a public space and a third party overhears the conversation, you might waive the privilege. If a court finds that you waived the privilege by disclosing the communication to the third party, it may compel that party to testify about the communications.
Here are four ways to ensure that your attorney-client communications are protected.
- Never share your communications with your attorney with others.
- Maintain written communications with your attorney in a secure location that third parties cannot access. Use a password to protect digital communications.
- When sending written communications, ensure that they are going to the correct physical location or email address.
- Don’t speak with your lawyer about legal matters within earshot of third parties.
Note that you, as the client, own the attorney-client privilege. You have the right to break the privilege intentionally. Your attorney, however, does not have that right. An attorney can only break the privilege if the client expressed an intention to commit a crime or fraud or is otherwise required to so by the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct. If you need legal help, please contact Razumich & Associates today.