Q: 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.