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What does the phrase Attorney-Client Privilege Mean?

Many Tampa attorneys in their initial consultation with their clients will use the phrase “attorney-client” privilege. This phrase is referring to the confidentiality between the attorney and their client regarding the matters discussed and exchanged during their meetings. Obviously, this is a far more complex subject than the simple one-sentence definition I provided above, so as we do everything on our Tampa attorney blog, it is necessary to break that one-sentence definition down to its elements.

First, it’s necessary to discuss what exactly a client is. A client is anyone that consults with an attorney with an expectation of privacy. This obviously includes both retained and prospective clients. As a potential client of an attorney, we strongly recommend that you remind your attorney, at times during the consultation, if you have concerns about the confidentiality of the matter you are discussing. Obviously, this is on a case-by-case basis and relies heavily on your comfort level with the attorney you are consulting with.

Secondly, with all things in the law, there are exceptions. The first and most obvious exception is with regards to future crimes. One cannot enjoy the protections of the attorney-client privilege relating to their plans or designs to commit future crimes. For example, one cannot come in and tell their attorney they plan to rob a bank later that day, in a certain area of town, at a certain time. In that situation, the  attorney may breach the attorney-client bond and do everything they can, within reason, to prevent the future crime. This creates an especially contentious relationship between an attorney and their client, but as an attorney, we’re bound to our ethics and Florida law.

It is worth noting, though, that a client explaining to an attorney that a prior crime has been committed, does not violate attorney-client privilege.  Otherwise, there would be nearly no confidentiality between attorneys and their clients in criminal law matters. It is also worth noting that, in light of recent Enron and other financial scandals and collapses of the United States economy, a second, more narrow definition has been carved out of attorney-client privilege. This relates to significant financial harm being caused to others. Simply put, this relates to situations where attorneys are aware of some sort of fraud, accounting practice, or other economic practice of a business or organization is going to result in a significant financial harm to others. Obviously, it’s easier to think of this in a Enron or other major financial situation collapse, but again, this is a recent exception and has been narrowly tailored by the court.

If you or someone you know has questions concerning attorney-client privilege and is looking for a Tampa attorney to handle their matter, contact the Tampa attorneys of Hackworth Law for a free case consultation. Our firm has handled thousands of cases throughout the Tampa Bay area, and always offers free case consultations. If you would like to contact one of our Tampa attorneys immediately, please use the “Contact Us Now” tab in the upper right-hand corner of our website. We look forward to working with you and hearing from you and appreciate your time in reviewing our Tampa Attorney blog.