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What is Attorney Client Confidentiality?

Confidential Files
Confidential Files

According to New Jersey Law, the attorney-client relationship is highly protected as is the confidentiality they share. All communications between the client and the NJ attorney in the professional relationship are considered to be privileged and confidential. In most cases, the lawyer is expected to respect any information that they obtain from a client and is it their duty to not disclose information. Unless the client makes informed consent which states that the lawyer can disclose information, the attorney is obligated to refrain from revealing any information that is shared during representation. A client has the right to present their actions to an attorney and seek legal counsel as to what their rights and obligations may be in the circumstance. Lawyers need information that may be embarrassing or legally damaging to a client in order to provide effective representation of their clients; and they need it in some cases to instruct the client to refrain from committing illegal or wrongful conduct.

Competently Preserving Confidentiality

Lawyers are required to competently safeguard information that they receive from a client while representing them in legal matters. The NJ attorney must protect information from disclosure by or to a third party, another lawyer, or any other person who is participating in representing the client. As long as the lawyer takes reasonable actions to try and protect the client’s information from being shared, the lawyer is not in violation of client-attorney confidentiality.

When is confidentiality not protected?

The attorney to client privilege is not one that is absolute. There are times when it conflicts with other policies that are laid out by the judicial system. While the address, phone number and other personal information may be protected under the attorney-client privilege in most circumstances, it is not in all circumstances. This can be a case by case decision and it is determined by the nature of the communication between client and lawyer. For instance, in cases of criminal activity, present fraudulent acts that the client is participating in, or certain types of misconduct, the attorney-client privilege will not protect those types of communications between client and lawyer.

What about public interest?

In general, public interest is best served by adhering to the responsibility of lawyers who preserve confidential information, as it pertains to representing their clients. While there are not many exceptions, there are a few. Disclosure is permitted in cases which it may be necessary in order to prevent bodily harm or the certain death of an individual. This means that the harm is likely to occur unless the lawyer takes action and reveals the threat. For instance, if an attorney is made aware that his client accidentally released toxins into the public water supply, the lawyer must reveal the information to the proper authorities since there is a substantial risk involved for those who drink the water. This type of disclosure is necessary on the part of the lawyer to prevent the threat, or to at least reduce the number of effected victims.

Instances of Fraud or Crime

In some cases the lawyer may become aware of a client’s intention to commit a crime or fraud. However, disclosure is not eminent since it can be avoided. But if the client has already committed an unlawful act, the client does not have the option of preventing the disclosure by abstaining from the act. In instances where loss cannot be prevented, mitigated or rectified, the lawyer is allowed to reveal the information related to the representation. They may reveal to the extent needed to help the person who was affected be able to mitigate the loss or recoup the losses. The lawyer is not bound by confidentiality in cases when a person commits fraud or a crime and then employs the lawyer to represent them for the offense.

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