What is the Attorney-Client Privilege?
The attorney-client privilege is one of the oldest recognized privileges protecting confidential communications. It is a legal concept that protects certain communications between a client and his or her attorney.
The United States Supreme Court has stated that by assuring confidentiality, the privilege encourages clients to discuss the facts of their case, good and bad, with their attorneys. This allows attorneys to provide well-reasoned and candid advice allowing for effective representation.
Lawyers are required to keep communications that fall under the attorney-client privilege confidential. We take this responsibility very seriously and understand that this protection allows us to listen to and advise clients without the worry of disclosure to third parties including the police or government.
For the attorney-client privilege to apply, the communication must be made by a client, with a lawyer or someone acting on the lawyer’s behalf, and in the process of securing legal advice. All three of these factors must apply.
There are several exceptions to the privilege. For example, if during the above communication, a third party hears what is said, then the third party may repeat the communication. If the communication was made for the purpose of committing a crime, then no privilege applies. The last and most common exception is when a client intentionally or unintentionally waives the privilege. There are other exceptions that result in waiver of the privilege so if you have questions, check with a qualified attorney in your state.
In the federal court system, the attorney-client privilege is set forth in Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. In California, Evidence Code Section 952 sets forth the privilege. Please note that each state provides for its own unique privilege.