The Attorney-Client Privilege is an evidentiary rule that protects both attorneys and their clients from being compelled to disclose confidential communications between them made for the purpose of furnishing or obtaining legal advice or assistance. The privilege is designed to foster frank, open, and uninhibited discourse between attorney and client so that the client’s legal needs are competently addressed by a fully prepared attorney who is cognizant of all the relevant information the client can provide. The attorney-client privilege may be raised during any type of legal proceeding, civil, criminal, or administrative, and at any time during those proceedings, pre-trial, during trial, or post-trial.
Why is it important?
The purpose underlying this privilege is to encourage full disclosure without fear that the information will be revealed to others, so that clients receive the best and most competent legal advice and representation.
What is covered by Attorney-Client Privilege?
The privilege extends to agents of either the client or the lawyer who facilitate the communication (e.g., paralegals or secretaries).
What is not covered by Attorney-Client Privilege?
The attorney-client privilege is fragile, and may be subject to waiver when the content of a confidential communication is disclosed to a third person with no legitimate need to know the information, even in some instances where the disclosure is inadvertent. A waiver can also occur where the communication takes place in public, or in some less than secure environment.
The attorney-client privilege is probably not available when an attorney is acting as a tax return preparer. Tax preparation is a service intended to result in disclosure to the Internal Revenue Service and some United States courts have held that the work papers and discussions with clients relative to the preparation of tax returns are not protected.
In the United States, communications between accountants and their clients are usually not privileged. The mere fact that the practitioner is an attorney will not create a valid attorney-client privilege with respect to a communication, for example, that involves business or accounting advice rather than legal advice.
Is the initial consultation covered by Attorney-Client Privilege?
The Attorney-Client relationship begins as soon as confidential information is revealed to an attorney. The privilege attaches even if the attorney or the client decides not to move forward with the representation. The privilege does not extend to the fact that a consultation between attorney and client occurred, nor to the general subject matter of the consultation. It protects only the content of the communications in that consultation.
As a small firm, we emphasize one-on-one service between our attorneys and clients. We have learned that clients are often looking for both an advocate and a confidante, and put great emphasis on the strict nature of attorney-client privilege. Please contact us at 866-631-3470 to schedule a complimentary initial consultation with one of our attorneys for your legal needs.