The attorney client privilege is at the heart of the practice of law. It holds that, except for a few instances where the attorney client privilege does not apply, ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you tell your lawyer MUST be kept secret between the two of you. Specifically, your attorney is legally prohibited from disclosing anything you tell him or her to any third-party. Attorneys have been sent to jail by Courts for refusing a judges illegal order requiring that attorney to disclose statements made to that attorney. There is nothing more sacred and crucial to the practice of law for attorneys at The Lockwood Legal Group than insuring that the attorney client privilege is upheld and maintained.
Why is the attorney client privilege so important?
The attorney client privilege insures clients that they can feel free to tel their attorney anything to assist in their representation. Keep in mind, when you walk into an attorney’s office, the lawyer does not know you from any other stranger on the street. Nevertheless, within hours, if not minutes, that lawyer is expected to represent your interests in matters often touching on the most crucial parts of a person’s life. Whether it be custody over one’s child, matters involving personal injuries, or decisions about what a person wants to have happen to their assets upon death, these cases involve some of the most important factors in the client’s life.
An attorney would be prohibited from providing the best legal representation possible if that lawyer was constantly being surprised by facts which the client was afraid to tell their attorney out of fear of that lawyer revealing the information to third-parties. So, to insure client’s that they should feel free to tell their attorney anything and everything, the concept of the attorney clinet privilege was created.
Can my attorney tell his or her family members or spouses of our conversations?
No. Other than the narrow exceptions identified in the article linked above, an attorney is prohibited by law from disclosing anything and everything you tell him or her. As discussed below, the client holds the privilege. Thus, if you were to tell your attorney any of the items provided for example purposes below, that lawyer would not be able to disclose those statements to ANYONE: not their children; best friend; spouse; counselor; best friend; sibling; or anyone. The If you were to outlive your attorney, that lawyer is required to take what you told them to their grave.
Examples of the attorney client privilege in action
Below are some examples of how the attorney client privilege works in real life. Some or all of these examples might not be from former clients of this firm.
Attorney client privilege in a criminal case
Lawyer represents John Doe. John is being charged with a crime, the nature of the crime is irrelevant. John tells his lawyer “counsel, I did it. I am guilty.” What can the attorney do? Nothing. More bluntly, he or she can keep their mouth shut. The attorney is prohibited from disclosing that admission of guilt to anyone. The philosophy behind representing someone who is almost certainly guilty is discussed here. Not only is the attorney prohibited from disclosing the admission of guilt to anyone, the attorney is prohibited from allowing that admission to influence the effectiveness of their representation in any manner. Thus, it is not enough for the attorney to keep the admission a secret, but plan on doing a crappy job in the case in hopes of the prosecutor obtaining a conviction. That is what we call malpractice. Any attorney who thinks differently, should NOT being practicing criminal law. Again, read more about that in the post titled How Can You Sleep At Night.
Attorney client privilege in personal injury cases
Lawyer is employed to represent Jane Doe who was injured by the negligence of antoher party. Her attorney files a lawsuit claining emotional distress among other damages. Because Jane is worried about the attorney reading about things she tells her counselor, she refuses to allow the attorney to talk to her mental health specialist.
Jane Doe need not worry. Nothing AT ALL that the lawyer reads in the medical records can EVER be disclosed to anyone by the attorney. Even if the case involves two Plaintiffs, such as in the case of a brother and sister, both of whom are injured. Even if the Plaintiffs are father and daughter can the attorney disclose anything Jane tells him or anything he reads in the medical record. In this situation, the client’s fear of the attorney disclosing things he or she reads in the medical records, is harming her case.
In the above example, Jane is protected by the attorney client privilege. Her fear of having sensitive information disclosed and the resulting distrust in her attorney could prevent her from being able to continue her claims for mental distress, thereby denying herself the full amount of compensation she deserves.
In instances such as the above example, where a client has expressed concern about sensitive information being revealed to third-parties or opposing counsel, and where such information is contained within written records, lawyers at The Lockwood Legal Group would, and often do, take measures to redact such information from written records prior to disclosure in discovery.
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If you believe you might be in the need of a lawyer, you likely are. Contact the firm by email or by phone to set up a free consultation.
Your lawyer is legally prohibited from disclosing anything you tell him or her.