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What is Attorney Client Confidentiality

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Attorney/Client Confidentiality provides guidance for the attorney and protects the client as to the revealing of information during the period of the clients representation. In addition, the attorney is bound, generally speaking, to not disclose information that may be related to that attorney's earlier representation of a former client. Rules and guidelines have been enacted to define that attorney's responsibilities and protect the client and former clients.

Because the concept of attorney/client privilege (which forms part of the foundation of attorney/ client confidentiality) allows the client to decide what information is to be revealed and what is to be kept confident (informed consent), the attorney is restricted from revealing any information that is related to the representation of a client without that client's informed consent. This standard is imperative in order that the client may disclose all issues, even damaging or discomforting information. The attorney must have access to this information in order to properly advise and represent a client.

Importance of Attorney/Client Confidentiality

A comprehensive body of laws and ethical standards has been developed to secure effective representation. The work/product doctrine and attorney/client privilege protect a client from the attorney being called as a witness or presenting damaging evidence against him or her. The principle of attorney/client confidentiality pertains to conditions other than compelling an attorney, through law to reveal evidence. Attorney/client confidentiality applies to all information that is related to representation, not simply to information disclosed in confidence by the client. An attorney is also prohibited from disclosing protected information in any manner that may lead to its discovery by another. Hypothetical situations may be addressed, but must be framed in such a way so as to protect the identity of the client involved and protect it from being revealed.

There are exceptions to attorney/client confidentiality and these exceptions are delineated in the Rules of Professional Conduct, or spelled out specifically in other laws. In brief, an attorney may reveal confidential information to order: to prevent bodily harm or to protect life; to prevent the commission of a crime or fraud; or for the attorney to receive legal advice as relates to the client's legal needs. There are also other situations and obligations that further limit the bounds of attorney/client confidentially.

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