Attorney-Client Privilege

postdivorceQ: What does attorney-client privilege mean?
A:
Without the client’s permission, an attorney may not disclose confidential information that a client has communicated to him or her.

Q: Is every communication covered by privilege?
A:
No. Attorney-client privilege protects only that spoken or written information conveyed to an attorney hired by the client, which is communicated when the client is seeking the attorney’s legal counsel on a matter. Counsel unrelated to a legal matter is not privileged.

Q: What about cell phone calls or e-mail communication?
A:
Care must be taken with their use, since third parties may eavesdrop even on supposedly secure or encrypted communications.

Q: Who “owns” the privilege?
A:
Only the client, who breaks it by inadvertently communicates the information to a third party.

Q: Must an attorney’s employees honor the privilege?
A:
Yes, other members of the firm—attorneys, legal assistants, paralegals, and clerical staff—honor attorney-client privilege.

Q: How long does privilege exist?
A:
Only a client’s authorization or a court’s ruling can break it.

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