Have you ever wondered whether things you tell your lawyer are just between the two of you? Many people who watch legal shows on TV have heard of the attorney-client privilege. But most people have no idea what that means or why it matters.
If you have never been involved in a lawsuit before, you may not know that it is important to keep your discussions with your lawyer private. In Louisiana, the law is called the “lawyer-client privilege.” It is based on the idea that lawyers cannot give good legal advice unless they know all the facts. To encourage clients to have open discussions with their lawyers, all of the U.S. states have some version of the lawyer-client privilege.
This privilege is important because when it applies, no one can be made to tell the substance of the lawyer’s discussion with his or her client. The privilege does not kick in unless the following requirements are met:
- the lawyer must be providing legal services to the client or consulting with the client about legal services; and
- the communication must be confidential.
It does not matter whether your communication with your lawyer is in person, on the phone, or in an email. The lawyer-client privilege can apply regardless of how the two of you communicate.
To be confidential, it is important that you not discuss communications you have with your lawyer with someone else. If you tell someone else about the advice your lawyer gives you, you will destroy the privilege. That means that the other party in the lawsuit will be able to find out about your communications and can use them against you.
It is important to make sure that you are careful about where your communications occur. For example, you would not want to talk with your lawyer in an open public place where you could be overheard. You also would not want to send somebody a copy of an email between you and your lawyer. In both of these cases, you have not treated your communication with your lawyer as “confidential.”
There is an important exception where the privilege does not apply. If the lawyer finds out about a future crime that the client is planning, the lawyer-client privilege does not kick in.
If you have been hurt by someone else and need solid legal advice, you can count on the attorneys at Wright Pichon & Gray. For a free case evaluation, contact us.