Attorney–client privilege or lawyer–client privilege is a "client's right privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other person from disclosing confidential communications between the client and the attorney."
The attorney–client privilege is one of the oldest recognized privileges for confidential communications. The United States Supreme Court has stated that by assuring confidentiality, the privilege encourages clients to make "full and frank" disclosures to their attorneys, who are then better able to provide candid advice and effective representation.
General requirements under United States law
Although there are minor variations, the elements necessary to establish the attorney client privilege generally are:
The asserted holder of the privilege is (or sought to become) a client; and the person to whom the communication was made:is a member of the bar of a court, or a subordinate of such a member, and in connection with this communication, is acting as an attorney; and the communication was for the purpose of securing legal advice.
There are a number of exceptions to the privilege in most jurisdictions, chief among them:
the communication was made in the presence of individuals who were neither attorney nor client, or was disclosed to such individuals,
the communication was made for the purpose of committing a crime or tort,
the client has waived the privilege (for example by publicly disclosing the communication).
Common Interest Rule
A corollary to the attorney–client privilege is the joint defense privilege, which is also called the common interest rule. The common interest rule "serves to protect the confidentiality of communications passing from one party to another party where a joint defense or strategy has been decided upon and undertaken by the parties and their respective counsel."
An attorney speaking publicly in regard to a client's personal business and private affairs can be reprimanded by the bar and/or disbarred, regardless of the fact that he or she may be no longer representing the client. Discussing a client's or past client's criminal history, or otherwise, is viewed as a breach of fiduciary responsibilities.
The attorney–client privilege is separate from and should not be confused with the work-product doctrine.
Fanning Law, LLC Can Help
We assist individuals and families with family law issues and other legal concerns in Southern Maryland, Washington DC, and throughout the region. For more information about how Fanning Law, LLC can help you and your family, contact Bill Fanning at Fanning Law, LLC - The Offices of William C. Fanning, Jr. - 301.934.3620 or at www.fanninglawllc.com.