Timothy Kelly & Associates, LLC  -  Attorneys & Counselors at Law
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Attorney-Client Privilege is a legal concept that protects communications between an attorney and client, and keeps those communications confidential.

The policy underlying this privilege is that of encouraging open and honest communication between clients and attorneys, which is thought to promote obedience to law and reduce the chance of illegal behavior, whether intentional or inadvertent.  As such, the attorney-client privilege is one of the strongest privileges available under the law.

Attorneys may disclose some confidential information under certain specific exceptions to the privilege.  For example, if the attorney reasonably believes the disclosure is necessary:

Ř  to prevent a crime that will likely result in death or serious bodily injury,

Ř  in instances where the attorney must defend himself from accusations of negligent representation or completion of services for receipt of a fee, and

Ř  where the court would otherwise subpoena the attorney's disclosure in the interests of justice.

In regards to the attorney-client privilege as applied to legal representation in pending judicial claims and defenses, the privilege generally does not terminate upon the client's death and continues in perpetuity, or “forever.”

General requirements under United States law

The general requirements for a valid assertion of attorney-client privilege in many jurisdictions in the United States are:

  1. The asserted holder of the privilege is (or sought to become) a client; and

  2. The person to whom the communication was made:

    1. is a member of the bar of a court, or his subordinate, and

    2. in connection with this communication, is acting as an attorney; and

  3. The communication relates to a fact of which the attorney was informed:

    1. by his client,

    2. without the presence of strangers,

    3. for the purpose of securing primarily either:

      1. an opinion on law, or

      2. legal services, or

      3. assistance in some legal proceeding,

    4. and not for the purpose of committing a crime or tort; and

  4. The privilege has been claimed, and

  5. The privilege has not been waived.

The attorney-client privilege is separate from and should not be confused with the Work-Product Doctrine, which protects materials prepared in anticipation of litigation from discovery by opposing 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. Airing of a client's or past client's dirty laundry is viewed as a breach of fiduciary responsibilities.

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Last modified: 02/28/11