St. Denis & Davey, P.A.

Legal Malpractice Issues

Understanding the obligation to be truthful

| Feb 8, 2019 | Legal Malpractice Law |

When Florida residents work with attorneys, the expectation is that any communication that occurs between the two sides is protected by attorney-client privilege. Most assume that attorney-client privilege means that an attorney is barred from saying anything that a client tells them. That, however, is not the case. There are indeed exceptions to this rule, as attorneys as tasked with maintaining their professional integrity at all times. 

Indeed, they are even mandated to do so. Rule 4.1 of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct state that attorneys are not to make a false statement of either material fact or law to a third party, nor are they to fail to disclose any information to a third party that would assist in the commission of a crime by their clients. This obligation is essentially a continuation of the crime-fraud exception of attorney-client privilege, which obliges an attorney to share information offered up by a client with authorities related to a crime that the client was in the process of committing or intended to commit. Furthermore, the crime-fraud exception also requires attorneys to disclose information given to them by a client in the attempt to perpetuate criminal activity or cover it up. 

So what exactly, then, does attorney-client privilege cover? According to the Cornell Law School, it mandates that attorneys not share “confidential communications” made between themselves and their clients (either current or prospective). For the purposes of this legal principle, “confidential communications” include the sharing of legal advice or details related to one’s representation. Attorney-client privilege protects confidential communications from being used as evidence against a party; an attorney’s duty of confidentiality requires lawyers from sharing details regarding a client’s representation with third parties.