Dealing With Attorney Client Privilege

The term "attorney-client privilege" sounds simple enough: everything you say to your attorney is protected. The reality is slightly different, and the reasons behind this legal concept are easily overlooked. Read on to learn more about dealing with attorney-client privilege.

Why have attorney-client communication protection?

The very foundation of the U.S. legal system is based on those accused being offered a chance to defend themselves against charges, and to do so, the accused needs to be able to be open and honest with their attorney. This legal concept assists the attorney in preparing for a defense, and protects clients against the attorney revealing information about, not just a crime, but absolutely anything you tell them. All communication is protected, be it by phone, email, mail, fax, recording, sign language or in person. Even if you end up not hiring the attorney to represent you in court, anything you have said to them is private and protected. No court can force that attorney to ever reveal your utterances, ever.

Exceptions to Note

As with all rules, there are also exceptions to the client-attorney privilege, and knowing about these ahead of time could save you some grief in the future. When in doubt, it's always a good idea to ask your attorney, before you speak, whether or not the privilege applies.

Intentional Communications: Having a casual conversation with a person who is also an attorney is not covered under this privilege. For example, if you chat with an attorney on a flight, none of what you say is covered (unless you specifically tell the attorney you are seeking legal information for yourself).

Third Party Overhears: When another party accidentally overhears your conversation with your attorney, as you might expect that party could be subpoenaed to testify about what they overheard. The situation can be a bit trickier if you allow a third party to intentionally overhear you and your attorney talking. In most states, communications where a friend, relative, legal staff member or other people who have been intentionally brought into a situation can also expect protection under the privilege. There have, however, been some instances of associated people being called to testify, with the determining factor being whether or not the other person was acting as an agent of the client at the time.

Future Actions: All past acts are covered, but the attorney must report any threats or information about future acts to the authorities. You can ask about future acts if done in the form of a hypothetical question. To learn more, contact a company like Barbour & Simpkins LLP