Confidentially Speaking

When you contact your lawyer’s office seeking advice and speak to a receptionist, Secretary, or paralegal, are your words protected by the attorney-client privilege? The Pennsylvania courts and the Rules that govern lawyer ethics say firmly that they are.

To be privileged, your statements to your lawyer’s employee must have been made to initiate an attorney-client relationship with your lawyer or to secure ongoing legal advice. Your statements must have been made in privacy-you may lose the privilege by speaking within hearing of strangers. If your statements are found to be within the privilege, Pennsylvania law prohibits the use of the statements against you in court. In addition, confidentiality is a two-way street: Your lawyer’s communications to you are also confidential and privileged.

Whenever you speak to your attorney or to his or her staff, you should be sure to do so in private. Discussing your legal affairs over the phone in a public place where you can be overheard or making statements in front of other people in your lawyer’s reception area must be avoided. The protection of the privilege is valuable and can be jeopardized or limited by loose or loud talk.

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