Attorney-client privilege is crucial to obtaining a successful result in your legal matter. The need to discuss a sensitive matter with someone is often intense. After all, if you don’t talk about the problem, how will you get any help? But the fear of gossip also holds people back. What if you disclose highly personal details to someone who then indiscriminately relates those details to other people? With lawyers and their clients, this is where attorney-client privilege comes in.
A Little History and Some Details
Common law has long recognized attorney-client privilege as a way to provide free-flowing communication between attorneys and their clients. It’s also similar to the privilege that exists between doctors and patients and clergy members and parishioners.
The protection of confidential information is not up to the whims of individual attorneys. Instead, all lawyers are bound by rules, including
· Federal Rule of Evidence 501, and
· Texas Rule of Evidence 503, for Texas lawyers.
But when does attorney-client privilege apply?
Elements of Attorney-Client Privilege
Certain things must be in place to trigger this crucial protection. In Texas, communications must meet the following criteria to be covered:
1. The communication must be confidential.
2. It must be made for the purpose of obtaining legal services.
3. Communications are between the client, the attorneys, and their representatives.
4. Finally, the attorney-client privilege has not been waived.
It’s easy to understand why this privilege exists. Attorneys need to be fully informed when representing a client, and clients need to feel free to discuss their legal matters with their attorney.
But it’s crucial to understand that the privilege does not apply in some circumstances.
Some Exceptions to Attorney-Client Privilege
Attorney-client privilege protects discussions between attorneys and their clients in most situations, but there are times when it may not:
· Attorney-client privilege may not apply if you disclose personal details but are not asking for help with a legal matter. For instance, you mention in passing that you think your business partner stole his aunt’s mineral rights. If the aunt sues, your attorney might have to disclose what you said.
· Your discussion must be about a legal matter. If you disclose your company’s proprietary information while just chatting with your attorney at a party, it’s unlikely attorney-client privilege applies.
· This privilege may be waived if other people are there when you talk to your attorney. Agents and employees of your attorneys usually are an exception to this.
· It’s possible to waive this privilege inadvertently. For example, you receive an email from your client with information about your case. Forwarding that email to friends and family could disrupt the privilege you share with your attorney.
· Attorneys may be required to break attorney-client privilege to prevent certain crimes, especially if bodily injury is involved. Your attorney may be required to tell authorities if you intend to commit a crime.
Also, make sure you know that an attorney represents you before discussing confidential matters. For example, three heirs to an estate approach an attorney because they’re concerned about the executor’s actions. Whom does the attorney represent? This could become an issue later, especially if the heirs later end up in probate litigation.
We Take Attorney-Client Privilege Seriously
Your secrets are safe with us. We understand your need to discuss your sensitive matters as we work on solutions freely.
The attorneys at Henke, Williams & Boll assist clients like you with litigation and other matters. But we don’t just help a little. We win cases through aggressive representation using extensive knowledge of the Texas legal system.
For a free consultation or phone appointment, call 713-940-4500 or use the convenient contact form located on our website. We represent clients in the Houston area, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Waller County, Fort Bend County, Galveston County, and Brazoria County.