One of the most important and fundamental aspects of the attorney-client relationship is confidentiality. Generally, communications between clients and their attorneys are confidential in nature and attorneys are prevented by law from revealing any of this information to a third party. Attorneys are acutely aware of this relationship and take great care to protect client information, both within their own offices and in cyberspace. The purpose of this confidential relationship is to allow for clients to give their attorneys honest and accurate information to ensure they are fully advised of their legal rights, without fear of repercussion.
The attorney-client privilege is what protects this confidential information.1 It essentially means that an attorney cannot be compelled to testify in court about attorney-client communications. The privilege is broad in that it also prevents an opposing party from sending discovery requests seeking such confidential information.
However, there are some practical limitations of which litigants and clients need to be aware to protect themselves, as confidentiality and the privilege may be waived, either intentionally or accidentally. Below are three tips for ensuring the communications between you and your attorney stay confidential:
1) Do not involve anyone who does not need to be involved in your case. Often, when a lawsuit is pending, there is a great deal of stress and anxiety involved in the process. Speaking with someone else about what you and your attorney have discussed may seem like a beneficial way to help relieve this stress. However, doing so may potentially waive confidentiality and open up communications between you and your attorney for questioning at a hearing. Be very careful in speaking with other people about any communications between you and your attorney, as this can have dire consequences for your case, and may force your attorney to have to withdraw their representation.
2) Know your electronic footprint. Are your passwords all saved on your laptop or tablet? Do you use the same password for every account that you have? If someone is able to access your accounts and/or your communications, this can have a serious impact on your case and can ruin your trial strategy. In this digital age, much of the communications between you and your attorney will likely be in writing via email. If someone, especially the opposing party, has access to these communications, it can be highly detrimental to your case. Set up secure accounts with different passwords and be sure you are the only one with those passwords.
3) Make sure your information is yours. Oftentimes, people want to use work email accounts or shared accounts for attorney-client communications because it is easier. To have all of your emails go to one account may be easier, but if you do not own the account (for example, if your employer is the owner of the email address through which you communicate with your attorney), you could lose those communications in the event you become separated from employment. Also, if your employer has access to your communications, they may not be considered confidential in the first place. Furthermore, if you and your current spouse or significant other shares an email account, consider creating a separate account for your attorney-client communications to ensure protection.
Keeping your communications and strategies with your attorney confidential and private is often paramount in a legal matter. Therefore, taking appropriate steps to protect yourself and your information is of the utmost importance. Be aware and conscientious of where your information is going, and make sure that you have a secure and private line of communication with your attorney.
If there is a situation where you feel that your information may be compromised, advise your attorney as soon as possible so that you can take steps to protect yourself. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys practice throughout the State of Indiana and understand the significance of confidentiality in legal matters and, by this blog, hope you do too. This blog post was written by Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates and is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.
- A strong and well-written opinion discussing this topic is T.P. Orthodontics, 15 N.E.3d 985 (Ind.2014).