Chapter 8: Lawyers and Confidentiality

When you bring your dirty laundry or sensitive dilemmas to an attorney, it’s natural to expect complete confidentiality. Luckily, the law also protects your confidential information. What are a lawyer’s duties when it comes to confidentiality?

Duty of Confidentiality

The duty of confidentiality is common to all attorneys. Essentially, this duty means that an attorney can’t divulge any information obtained in the course of representing you unless you give permission. In fact, they can’t even tell anyone else they are representing you if you don’t give permission. This duty of care is in place because your lawyer can’t effectively represent you if he or she doesn’t know the truth about the matter at hand. The duty of confidentiality allows you to be up-front and honest with your attorney so that you can get the best legal representation possible.

Exceptions to the Rule of Confidentiality

There are only a few exceptions to this die-hard rule. Pretty much the only time a lawyer can divulge information you’ve shared without your direct consent is if the result of non-disclosure will lead to bodily harm or death of another. In some cases in which a lawyer is sued, he or she may disclose information; however, he or she cannot disclose unrelated information to get back at you or ruin your reputation. Usually in such cases an attorney will file special paperwork that makes sure only the judge and other attorneys know the confidential information. Lawyers can divulge confidences to another attorney when consulting with a colleague; lawyers might also be obligated to divulge confidential information to rectify or prevent client fraud or lies inside or out of court. These laws depend on the state in which the attorney practices.

How Long Does the Duty Last?

This confidentiality duty doesn’t just last while you’re under active representation – it lasts a lifetime. The attorney-client privilege is holy to lawyers. And it has legal ramifications as well. Unless there are special circumstances, in which an attorney must testify under oath, confidential and privileged information, that is, information discussed in a confidential conversation in which legal advice was sought or given, are top secret.

Introduction: How to Hire a Lawyer
Chapter 1: Which Lawyer is Right for the Job?
Chapter 2: Attorney Fees
Chapter 3: Attorney Fee Agreements and Bills
Chapter 4: Low and No-Cost Options for Legal Representation
Chapter 5: The Attorney-Client Relationship
Chapter 6: Lawyers and Communication
Chapter 7: Lawyers and Competence
Chapter 8: Lawyers and Confidentiality
Chapter 9: Lawyers and Conflicts of Interest
Chapter 10: Mad at Your Lawyer?
Chapter 11: Questions You Should Ask a Prospective Attorney