What is an Attorney-Client Privilege?
Protection from Public or Legal Disclosure
One of the more commercialized aspects of being an attorney is the infamous attorney-client privilege. As popularized in TV shows and movies, attorney-client privilege is generally known as a client sharing a detailed conversation regarding legal matters or other confidential information with his/her attorney and this conversation being protected from public or legal disclosure. Typically, attorney-client privilege applies to any conversation between an attorney and their client. Communication disclosed between a lawyer and their client have a privilege that protects it from any disclosure including during litigation. This privilege protects clients and attorneys from necessary and important information being used against them. It assists the attorney to get an exact view of the facts of a case so they can make an informed decision as to the best legal course of action to advise their clients.
Background on Attorney-Client Privilege
One of the most important fundamental reasons for attorney-client privilege’s existence is justice requires the protection of communications between an attorney and their client. In the case of Upjohn Company v. United States, 449 U.S. 383 (1981) the Supreme Court held that “[Attorney-client privilege’s] purpose is to encourage a full and frank communication between attorneys and their clients and thereby promote broader public interests in the observance of law and administration of justice. The privilege recognizes that sound legal advice or advocacy serves public ends and that such advice or advocacy depends upon the lawyer’s being fully informed by the client.” Having a full doctrinal privilege in place allows the client to fully disclose all the reasons for his seeking of representation, which in turn allows the attorney to provide the best available legal advice.
Rules on Professional Conduct
Under the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, attorney-client privilege extends to potential clients as well. Based on a test formulated in Togstad v. Vesely, a person can be considered a prospective client, thus protected by attorney-client privilege, if:
- The person seeks legal advice;
- The person reasonably relies on that advice as legal advice; and
- The attorney does not attempt to dissuade the person from relying on the advice.
This allows a person with no legal knowledge to talk with an attorney about a potential case without the worry of this information being exposed to anyone else. The potential client can be free to disclose as much detailed information as he wants while also shielding it from the outside world. This allows the attorney to gather all the facts and provide the client with advice, such as if the law has been broken, if there is any liability on the opposing party, or simply if they should pursue a lawsuit. Even if the potential client decides against pursuing any legal action, the information disclosed is still protected under attorney-client privilege. Clients should also be relieved to know that there are criminal statutes and serious court sanctions that can be placed on an attorney who breaks this privilege.
About Coffman Law Offices, P.C.
Coffman Law is committed to providing superb legal representation for people who have suffered severe personal injuries due to a crash or incident or are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to negligence or misconduct. Coffman Law is a results-driven firm focused on ensuring that clients receive the compassion, attention, and consideration that they need to seek adequate redress for their personal injuries, damages, and loss. The firm is led by Brian W. Coffman, who has dedicated his career to helping personal injury victims navigate the legal system and obtain redress for their injuries. If you have been injured or lost a loved one, contact Coffman Law today for a free consultation at (312) 888-5757 or check out the firm’s website at www.coffmaninjurylaw.com.