For lawyers and judges, the attorney client privilege, legal privilege and work product doctrines are a defining part of the American legal system. However, we often observe litigants (clients) do not fully understand what these mean. We believe a better educated a client is about the legal system, the better they are able to aid their attorney in advocating their case to their legal objective. This blog post highlights these three related, but distinct, legal tools.
The attorney-client confidence is really basically what is seems to indicate. What you tell your attorney, with very limited exceptions, such as relaying your plan to commit a serious crime, is confidential and the attorney cannot share this with anyone other than those necessary to help the attorney advocate your case. Many tragic, private and highly personal matters are relayed to an attorney. This cannot be shared and survives the attorney’s death. The client can waive this in some cases—and does—for a variety of reasons (knowing this is the point of this blog, not the technical reasons).
The legal evidentiary privilege is what really gives attorney-client confidences meaning where it counts, which is in the courtroom. With narrow exceptions, an attorney cannot be called as a witness and compelled to reveal information the attorney has been provided by the client or former client. This ensures the attorney-client privilege is given meaning. There are narrow legal evidentiary privileges for doctors and those in the ministry and are set out in cases and statutes.
The final legal concept, the work product doctrine, is a little more difficult to understand. This is material prepared by or for the attorney to prepare the case. It may be whether an engineer supports the theory of defense of why a product failed (or does ultimately does not support it). In most cases, the product of an attorney’s investigation and communication into preparing the case cannot be “discovered” by the other party concerning the subject-matter of the lawsuit. This typically is asserted to the opposing sides, not necessarily in the courtroom, at least when the dispute begins.
We hope this blog helps you generally understand the key importance the attorney-client confidence rule, legal evidentiary privilege, and work product doctrines may play in your case. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. and is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates practice across Indiana.