Some issues relating to legal ethics and professional obligation are becoming more prominent in their minds as law students prepare for graduation. Such practical considerations are of equal significance to any other aspect of the practice of a law firm. They require the strict obedience of all licensed lawyers, much like substantive legal laws. Protecting client confidentiality is a significant issue. Many attorneys want to talk, after all.
In the one side, there is the right of attorney-client, which, of course, includes a confidentiality facet. In the professional accountability curriculum, this is what law students think about when they review ethical laws, like RC 1.6. There is clearly the principle, on the other hand, of keeping company and consumer matters confidential. The different interactions between lawyer, client, and staff don’t need to be heard by other clients sitting in the waiting room. Instead of attorney-client privilege, it is only a matter of basic privacy and discretion that lawyers protect the privacy of their communications with themselves and customers.
It allows clients to be transparent and truthful with counsel without fear that others may become privy to these discussions and judge the content. More significantly, maybe, lawyers who are completely consulted by consumers are in the best place to offer the best legal advice. Attorneys must counsel clients, while retaining confidentiality and respecting the privilege of the attorney-client, to the highest degree possible. If some likelihood of litigation occurs, the protection offered in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for an attorney’s work product can afford protection that may not be provided by the attorney-client privilege.
Only if the party requested, and the counsel given, legal advice, would communications be privileged. The privilege is narrowly construed and covers only certain disclosures required to receive informed legal advice that would not have been made without the privilege, since the privilege is contrary to the judicial purpose of putting relevant evidence forward.
In cases where an attorney represents the client primarily as a business lawyer, the right does not cover communications. It is not always clear, however, whether an attorney has already provided legal advice to lawyers who provide clients with advice on both business and legal matters. If the advice was something that an individual with no legal experience might have given, the attorney was not consulted in a professional capacity. In all the cases, the assistance of the solicitor would have been obtained because of a need for legal advice.
No customer wants to ask his or her lawyer if they could have a quieter discussion and hear the lawyer answer, “It’s okay, what we’re talking about is not privileged.” The easiest solution and one that is discreet, polite, and offers the most privacy is to treat as private and confidential all contact and interaction.
Among other acts, in order to comply with the confidentiality provisions of RPC 1.6, lawyers must ensure that their offices are arranged so that customer consultations can be performed with full privacy. Client files must be stored in a safe area and only approved staff should have access to them.
It might not be all that hard for an attorney to faithfully protect any customer’s privacy. He or she acknowledges what is at stake and the intense duty inherent in the relationship. However, on the basis of their attitudes and maturity levels, staff members can be more reckless and prone to neglectful disclosure.
In all phases of working on a client’s legal matter, lawyers must advise and prepare staff to be continually mindful of the need to be discreet and sensitive to confidentiality issues. Workers in public areas such as the reception room must not address customer problems and must be careful when answering the phone and accepting calls to prevent being overheard.
Adopt the easy solution: treat as private and confidential all contact and interaction.