An significant legal principle that encourages consumers to trust their lawyers with private data is two persons shaking hands over a desktop attorney-client privilege. It has been called “a principle of fundamental justice and civil law of supreme importance in Canadian law by the Supreme Court of Canada.” Given its importance to the relationship, we feel it is necessary for people to understand what privilege is for solicitor-client privilege.
Communications and information covered by solicitor-client privilege between the client and the lawyer are confidential. This implies that it is possible to keep secret what may otherwise be important facts or details, admissible in court or needed to be revealed in a dispute to the other side.
Three preconditions must be fulfilled in order to assert solicitor-client privilege, and keep otherwise sensitive information confidential. The relationship must be:
– Between lawyer and customer;
– For the purpose of obtaining or offering legal advice or of receiving legal advice; and
– Intended by the parties to be private.
Solicitor-client confidentiality covers, as well as any related content, legal advice seeking/giving correspondence between the lawyer and client.
Not all contact between a lawyer and her client, as it must apply to legal advice, is privileged. Communications from a lawyer offering company advice or a restaurant suggestion, for example, will not generally be privileged
Privilege therefore does not extend to illegal correspondence or to communications made in order to seek legal advice with a view to facilitating the commission of a crime. Beware of Saul Goodman!
In the age of information, legal information abounds. On firm websites, it is easy to access legal details and easy to contact lawyers through the web. Details disclosed to a lawyer would usually cause the obligation of confidentiality of the lawyer for the purposes of receiving legal advice. This implies that the lawyer would have an obligation to keep details conveyed to them confidential, even if the person does not end up keeping the lawyer. Solicitor client relationships are also established informally, before each retainer has been signed. For instance, however, merely accessing legal details on the blog of a lawyer does not cause a relationship.
Solicitor-client right is owned by the consumer. This means that only the consumer can, in general, waive the right. The waiver must be willingly executed. The right is not waived by the compulsory or accidental disclosure of privileged information. However, right may, under limited cases, be violated by a judge. For example, where there is a real, serious and immediate danger to public safety, or where the prosecutor needs to reveal the client’s limited details in order to protect herself against charges of wrongdoing.
Privacy and confidentiality issues also occur in the workplace. The bulk of what takes place at work will not be private, unlike your relationship with your lawyer. Generally speaking, this is true even when there are sensitive abuse complaints.