The attorney-client privilege is one of those legal terms that pop up often in movies and TV shows. But what does it mean, exactly? Let’s take a closer look at this important rule.
What Is the Attorney-Client Privilege?
The attorney-client privilege is a privilege that protects the communications (both oral and written) between clients and their attorneys.
According to this privilege, lawyers may not divulge details from their clients’ cases and cannot be forced to do so by others.
This rule, which is one of the oldest evidentiary privileges, exists to encourage clients to communicate openly with their lawyers.
In order to be protected by this privilege, communications must meet certain criteria. For example:
- They must be confidential. This means that no third parties should be present when the communication takes place.
- They must be between an attorney and a client.
- They must be for the purpose of seeking or providing legal advice. For example, copying a lawyer in an email sent to another person does not necessarily establish attorney-client privilege.
What Does It Mean for You?
To put it simply, the attorney-client privilege means that your lawyer cannot discuss details of your case with people other than their legal team.
In most cases, the attorney-client privilege applies also to prospective clients. This means that if you discuss your case with a lawyer you are considering retaining, that lawyer cannot reveal details of your case even if they don’t end up representing you. This is only a general rule, so it’s a good idea to confirm with a prospective lawyer if the attorney-client privilege applies to your communications with them.
Also, keep in mind that the application of the attorney-client privilege may vary from state to state and between state and federal courts. That’s why it’s important to discuss this topic with your lawyer before sharing the details of your case with them.
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