The word attorney-client privilege, which is to protect any sensitive messages exchanged between a client and their lawyer, is common to most individuals. While a paralegal is not a lawyer and is expected to work under the guidance of a licensed attorney instead, there are still ethical obligations that all legal professionals must obey with regard to their interactions with clients and keep lawyers responsible for the actions of their workers.
A paralegal should not establish an attorney-client relationship, offer legal advice and argue on behalf of clients in court, and lawyers can take steps to avoid putting their paralegals in difficult roles because of client requirements, including enforcing policies to protect client information and provide paralegals with training on the value of safeguarding client trust.
Without fear of repercussion, the purpose of the attorney-client privilege is to encourage the client to feel comfortable telling their lawyer all the facts about the case. In these particular cases, it applies:
If the contact is communicated in private and the consumer wishes it to remain confidential.
When the attorney works with the client in a professional capacity regarding the legal services that are rendered.
If the client talks with certain legal resources with the solicitor.
The client is the right holder, and the attorney must have the permission and consent of the client to exchange confidential information. Even an attorney should not be required by the court to appear in court and disclose sensitive client details. Although the attorney-client privilege may be waived only by the client, it may be considered waived under the following circumstances:
The customer wishes to share with an unrepresented third party details (other than a spouse or party to the case).
The customer’s contact relates to the intent to commit a crime.
In order to defend the attorney from a legal malpractice lawsuit, contact is required.
But what about the right of paralegal-client, and is there such a thing really?
The attorney-client privilege and the related client confidentiality ethical responsibilities apply to the paralegal and all non-lawyers who are working on the case. Rule 5.3 of the Model Rules allows lawyers who are partners in a firm, have a comparable management authority or have a paralegal and other legal staff supervisory authority to make appropriate efforts to ensure that the behavior of the person is consistent with the lawyer’s professional obligations.
Essentially, what this suggests is that lawyers are liable for breaches of non-lawyer ethical law as long as they have directed or approved the conduct, or as partners or superiors of the staff member, they have failed to take timely disciplinary measures with regard to the action. The duty to protect the confidentiality of clients extends to all types of information, including:
Documents and other correspondence in writing
Contact in nonverbal language (head nodding)
Electronic materials sent to opposing counsel directly
E-mail messages sent to customers and to others
Verbal conversations in the workplace, the elevator, and even at home about customer problems while others are present
The use of built-in computer software features or custom applications that delete meta-data and notes from electronic copies of documents and prevent the wide dissemination and inadvertent disclosure of privileged information is one way to safeguard consumer privacy online.
In the event of inadvertent disclosure, lawyers ought to emphasize that the paralegal must notify them immediately of the incorrect release of details, rather than disregard the question, assuming that it would result in nothing negative. The earlier the lawyer discovers the inadvertent disclosure, the easier it is possible to take action to fix the issue, including advising the receiving party of the inadvertent disclosure and demanding that the revealed details be returned.
One more thing: if a paralegal wishes to terminate employment, lawyers must inform the leaving employee that they have an ongoing responsibility to protect customer confidentiality in situations in which they have served during their employment at the company.