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Is It Confidential What You Tell Your Lawyer?

What is the Privilege Attorney-Client?

When they meet with an attorney, one of the first questions raised by new customers is if the details they send to the attorney will remain confidential. An attorney must know all of the facts of your case, which could include very sensitive information, in order to offer the most reliable legal advice. In two ways, Pennsylvania law covers correspondence between lawyers and clients.


In Pennsylvania, all lawyers must comply with the Laws of Professional Conduct, a set of legislation covering all aspects of their practice. One of the most relevant principles is confidentiality, and it is taken very seriously. Generally speaking, except under a very restricted number of cases, lawyers can not reveal any information about their clients. For instance, in order to facilitate contract or settlement agreements, a client will agree to the disclosure of certain details, or may consent to the disclosure of restricted information, such as the presence or location of a will after the death of the client.

An attorney does not reveal details relevant to the past criminal activity of a client, but may disclose the intent of a client to commit a crime to the police.

The confidentiality of the attorney extends to all modes of communication and to information stored in his office or electronic databases by an attorney. For example, when a client gives his attorney documents containing personal details, the attorney is expected to keep such documents in a safe place and take care to protect them from robbery or unauthorized viewing.

Safe email servers are used by most lawyers and/or recommend that confidential data not be shared via email.

Confidentiality laws apply not only to your lawyer, but also to anyone who works for him, even after the conclusion of their jobs.


Confidentiality laws in Pennsylvania not only prohibit lawyers from exposing your data; they also shield attorney/client correspondence from third parties’ disclosure in court proceedings. For instance, if a client confesses that he is guilty of a crime to his lawyer, the attorney will not be forced to disclose the identity of the client or the contents of any correspondence to the police or prosecutor. Likewise, in any civil action, an opposing party can not access any correspondence between an attorney and a client. This requires correspondence from a client to his lawyer or someone on his staff and communications to the client from the lawyer or someone on his staff.

Who is covered by the laws of confidentiality?

Confidentiality of the attorney-client applies if a person speaks to an attorney during the course of the professional relationship, and even after the professional relationship has ended, for the purpose of seeking professional legal advice. Therefore, if a prospective client consults with an attorney about a matter and does not end up hiring the attorney, confidentiality laws and attorney-client privilege also protect all correspondence. While no payment or formal contract is needed for confidentiality purposes in order for an attorney-client relationship to occur, the rules do not necessarily extend to informal conversations outside the workplace, such as at a social event. In such cases, lawyers normally regard such discussions as private, although the right of attorney-client does not extend unless there is any suggestion that the contact is intended for the purpose of receiving professional legal advice.