When you engage the services of a lawyer, an important thing to keep in mind is confidentiality. If you are a business owner in need of advice or representation, confidentiality of your business information can be critical. To understand the confidentiality present in your relationship with a lawyer, you need to understand the three distinct forms confidentiality takes within the context of that relationship.
Lawyers are bound by their codes of professional ethics to maintain confidentiality. Each state or jurisdiction adopts a set of rules for lawyer conduct. Under these rules, lawyers must keep any information you provide for the purposes of representation confidential, as well as any information obtained by the lawyer from any source relating to your case.
Attorney-Client Privilege is a legal right that clients may invoke to prevent communications between them and their lawyers from being disclosed by the lawyer as evidence. Each state typically has a law that establishes this privilege or recognizes a common-law right. One thing to remember is that information already known by others cannot suddenly be made confidential by sharing it with your lawyer. If it was not previously confidential, you cannot make it so using the attorney-client privilege.
This aspect of confidentiality protects written information such as lawyer notes and research documents from being disclosed. It also applies to your lawyer’s thoughts and observations as she develops the strategy and manner of representation.
What This Means to You as a Client
Clients need to be aware of how their interactions with legal counsel and others can affect the right to confidentiality. You always have the right to authorize your attorney to disclose information, but be aware that your authorization may also be implied, for example if you bring a third party into a meeting with you or copy a third party on an email with your lawyer. Therefore, be cautious not to say or do anything while communicating with your lawyer to give the impression that it is okay to disclose information, unless it is.
The right to have information held confidential by your lawyer can also be waived if you yourself disclose it to others. In other words, if you speak confidentially with your lawyer, and then go and repeat the information to other people, your lawyer may no longer be bound to keep the information confidential.
What This Means to You as a Business Owner
As a business owner, one of the most valuable relationships you can have is a confidential relationship with a trusted business lawyer. Being out there in the business community makes you more vulnerable to legal action than the average private citizen. We are always here to support you, and we’ll keep it confidential.
This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Creative Business Lawyer®. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for small businesses and can help you understand the attorney-client relationship. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session,™ which includes employment structuring, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Make an appointment today to discuss any questions you have about your business or to schedule a LIFT Start-Up Session™.