Attorney-Client Privileged Communication Examples

Few business relationships are as sacred as those between an attorney and client. People use lawyers for several reasons, many of which are personal and involve the disclosure of private and sensitive information. Confidentiality is a critical component in assuring free communication between clients and their attorneys. Some refer to this as the attorney-client privilege, but that is a related but different evidentiary rule.

Both privileged communication and a client's right of confidentiality are crucial, time-honored client protections. Over the past few decades, however, communications technology has evolved. Now, clients can text, email and even collaborate with their attorneys through electronic means. Lawyers are available by mobile calls, and some practices also allow remote client access to file statuses. Do these innovations in technology-enabled communications cause any concern for confidentiality or privileged communication?  

What is privileged communication?

Privilege is a legal term relating to evidence. Privileged communication is any information exchanged between two parties that cannot be disclosed in a legal proceeding. Privileged communication examples include almost anything that a client conveys to their attorney. In a trial, for example, no side can compel disclosure of communication between an attorney and client. There can be some exceptions to this evidentiary rule, but for the most part, whatever a client says to an attorney is privileged. A clear exception is that if the information is available from another source, it is not protected. So, if you tell your lawyer something private, but also tell a friend or someone else who does not share a confidential relationship, then you cannot "cloak" that info by saying it was communicated to an attorney.

What is client-lawyer confidentiality?

Confidentiality is a bit different than privilege. Whereas privilege is about evidence and testimony, confidentiality speaks to the relationship between attorney and client. It is an ethical concept, not an evidentiary one. For example, if you tell your lawyer that you are going to sell your business, it would be a breach of confidentiality for the lawyer to tell others unless you explicitly authorize the disclosure.  While the two concepts are technically different, the overarching idea is the same. 

The things you communicate to an attorney should be held in high regard, and protected from disclosure. These protections extend to inadvertent disclosure as well. With the face of legal communications changing, just like with other professions and business relationships, are there concerns about privilege and confidentiality falling by the wayside?

Modern communications and privileged communication

New, and relatively new, communications tools, such as texting and video conferencing are being put to productive use in the practice of law. From updating clients to providing faster and more cost-effective meetings, Unified Communications solutions, such as those provided by VoIP providers, provide streamlined methods of informing and collaborating. 

While these innovations provide what can be seen as radical new ways for lawyers and clients to communicate, it's noteworthy that lawyers have been pushing the boundaries of confidentiality with technology for years. Consider faxing technology. Does a breach of privacy occur if a fax is sent to the wrong address? Likely not, as long as the communication was in error and the fax cover sheet contains a directive to destroy the document if received in error.

The attorney-client relationship is regulated by state and federal ethical rules and guidelines. Rule 1.1 of the Model Rules of the American Bar Association requires a lawyer to have competence. While this concept traditionally only applied to skill in practice areas, several states have adopted rules that require technical competence. This technical competence requires lawyers to understand the consequences of technology, not merely benefit from its efficiencies.

The right telephony partner can help maintain technological competency

8x8's VoIP solutions for the legal practice contain protections to ensure that privileged information stays between the lawyer and client.  Web meetings, smartphone apps, collaboration tools, and enterprise-level call routing can take legal practice to the next level in client communications. Each of these features provided through 8x8's unified communications is built with the strongest data security protocols possible. With 8x8, not only can lawyers provide the communications desired by clients, but they can rest assured that their client call data is secure.

When it comes to ensuring legal communication, 8x8 provides reliable and compliant cloud solutions at a demanding level rarely seen by other cloud providers. Don't take your chances with a subpar cloud-based telecom system. Call 1-866-879-8647 or fill out an online form to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 product specialist.

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