Every attorney owes his client a number of duties. Attorneys are sworn to uphold a code of ethics, and when they do not, civil – and sometimes criminal – penalties may follow. A crucial aspect of the attorney-client relationship is attorney-client privilege. Without this, you, the client, cannot fully communicate with your lawyer and, thereby, assist your case.
What is attorney-client privilege?
Simply put, your attorney owes you the obligation to keep confidential everything you say to him. Why is this important? Without the understanding and trust that you can say absolutely anything to your attorney, you may fail to provide key information that could affect your case – positively or adversely.
For example, in advance of your divorce, you open a separate bank account that your spouse knows nothing about. If you are afraid to disclose this to your attorney, and fail to do so, this could have significant repercussions in court. If, for example, you were texting and driving and you feel uncomfortable disclosing this to your attorney, your personal injury case could later be derailed when your credibility is called into question.
Why is this important?
It’s obvious then, why completely open attorney-client communication is crucial. What happens, then, when your attorney breaches that confidentiality? At a minimum, it may have the same effect as the examples above: it can derail your case. But, most importantly, it is a breach of ethical duties, and depending on the effects of the breach, could result in a legal malpractice claim against your attorney.
For example, if your attorney, either intentionally or inadvertently, discussed your case with someone – and that discussion had a negative effect and caused you harm – your attorney could be legally liable.
What’s the upshot?
The majority of attorneys do their best for their clients. But when they do not, consulting a legal malpractice attorney is essential. Doing so helps you understand your nuanced case and the remedies available.