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If you need legal help, it’s important to be honest and open with your attorney. That’s the only way the attorney can fully understand your unique situation and provide the best possible advice and representation. This isn’t always the easiest conversation for clients, however. They often find it difficult to share every detail of their problem with someone they just met or only know solely in a professional contest. Their reluctance to be forthcoming can stem from embarrassment, fear of criminal liability, or the belief that the details may harm their reputation or career.

This is where the attorney-client privilege comes into play.

The attorney-client privilege is a legal concept that protects the confidentiality of communications between an attorney and their client. In Texas, this privilege is governed by the Texas Rules of Evidence 503 and the Federal Rule of Evidence 501. It is meant to encourage complete honesty and trust between clients and attorneys so that they can freely discuss all relevant details without fear of it being disclosed to anyone else.

In this article, the attorneys at Varghese Summersett give an overview of the attorney-client privilege, how it works in the state of Texas, and why you should always feel safe sharing information with your legal counsel.

Understanding Attorney-Client Privilege

Understanding the Attorney-Client Privilege

The attorney-client privilege is a fundamental principle in the American legal system that encourages open and honest communication between clients and their attorneys. Here are some key points about the attorney-client privilege in Texas:

  • It is one of the oldest privileges recognized in law, intended to encourage full and frank communication between attorneys and clients for the purpose of obtaining legal advice and effective representation.
  • For the privilege to apply, there must be: 1) a communication, 2) between privileged persons (attorney and client), 3) made in confidence, and 4) for the purpose of seeking, obtaining, or providing legal assistance.
  • The communication must be made to facilitate the rendition of professional legal services, not for business advice or other purposes.
  • The privilege covers the complete communication, including both legal advice and factual information related to seeking that advice.
  • It applies to communications with the client’s representatives or agents who facilitate the attorney-client relationship, such as employees authorized to act on the legal advice.
  • The privilege can be waived if the client discloses the communication to third parties or allows third parties to be present during attorney-client communications.
  • In-house counsel communications with corporate employees authorized to act on the legal advice are generally privileged.
  • The privilege continues even after the attorney-client relationship ends.

In essence, the attorney-client privilege in Texas aims to protect the confidentiality of communications between lawyers and their clients made for the purpose of obtaining legal counsel, subject to certain conditions and limitations.

Does the Attorney-Client Privilege Apply to All Areas of Law?

Yes, the attorney-client privilege applies broadly across various areas of law, including criminal, family, and personal injury law. This privilege is fundamental in ensuring that clients can communicate candidly and securely with their attorneys about their legal issues, regardless of the specific legal context.

In criminal law, attorney-client privilege is crucial for protecting the rights of the accused. It ensures that communications between a defendant and their lawyer are confidential, promoting an honest and complete exchange of information necessary for a robust defense.

In family law, this privilege covers sensitive issues such as divorce proceedings, custody battles, and other personal matters. It helps clients feel secure in discussing deeply personal and potentially embarrassing matters without fear of public disclosure.

Similarly, in personal injury cases, attorney-client privilege allows individuals to share all relevant details about their injuries and the circumstances that led to them with their attorney. This complete disclosure is vital for building a strong case to obtain rightful compensation.

In all these scenarios, the privilege only protects communications that are intended to be confidential and are made for the purpose of obtaining or providing legal advice. Clients and lawyers alike need to maintain the confidentiality of these communications to ensure the privilege remains intact.

Attorney-Client Privilege When a Third Party is Present

The Attorney-Client Privilege When a Third Party is Present

When people are facing legal trouble, it is not uncommon for them to want to have a loved one in the meeting with their attorney. However, having a third party present during discussions with their lawyer can waive the attorney-client privilege. This means that any information disclosed in the presence of someone who is not part of the legal team will not be protected under attorney-client confidentiality.

It’s important for clients to understand that the privilege only covers private communications between the attorney and client, intended for the purpose of obtaining or providing legal advice. If confidentiality is breached by the presence of a third party, the information discussed could potentially be subject to disclosure in legal proceedings.

In other words, having a third party present during discussions with your attorney could potentially harm your case. For example, if it was a criminal case, the prosecution can potentially force the third party to reveal the contents of the conversation.

Exceptions to Attorney-Client

Exceptions to the Attorney-Client Privilege

While the attorney-client privilege in Texas is a fundamental part of legal counsel, there are important exceptions where the privilege does not apply. Understanding these exceptions is crucial for clients to navigate their interactions with legal professionals effectively.

  1. Crime-Fraud Exception: If a client seeks advice from an attorney to assist with committing a crime or fraud, the privilege is not applicable. This exception is intended to prevent abuse of the privilege by those seeking to use legal advice as a cover for illicit activities.
  2. Common Interest Exception: Though not necessarily an exception to the privilege, clients need to understand that when multiple parties are involved and sharing an attorney, the privilege still applies but can be more complicated. Each party must maintain confidentiality for the privilege to remain intact.
  3. Dispute Between Client and Attorney: If a dispute arises between the client and their attorney, such as in cases of malpractice, communications relevant to the dispute may be disclosed.
  4. Documented Communications: Only oral and written communications intended to be confidential are covered. Documents that are part of the public record or could be obtained from another source are not protected under this privilege.
  5. Death of a Client: The privilege may be lifted in cases involving a deceased client’s estate, where communications are necessary to settle disputes among potential heirs or other parties.

While the attorney-client privilege is robust in Texas, there are some exceptions that clients and attorneys must remain aware of to ensure they do not inadvertently waive the privilege. By understanding the scope and limitations of this important legal protection, clients can confidently communicate with their attorneys, knowing their conversations are kept confidential. This ultimately promotes stronger attorney-client relationships and better outcomes for legal matters.

Overall, the attorney-client privilege is a crucial aspect of our legal system, protecting the rights of clients to seek and obtain legal advice without fear of disclosure. It is a privilege that should be respected and carefully maintained by all parties involved. So, whether you are facing criminal charges or dealing with a family law matter, understanding the attorney-client privilege is key to navigating your legal proceedings effectively. With this knowledge in hand, you can confidently communicate with your attorney and work towards the best possible outcome for your case.

About Varghese Summersett

Varghese Summersett is a premier family law, criminal defense, and personal injury practice in North Texas dedicated to helping people through life’s greatest challenges. Each division is comprised of experienced, award-winning attorneys dedicated to providing outstanding service and obtaining exceptional results.

From your first call, you will realize how we are different. Our goal is to set you at ease and get to know your unique situation. By gaining a deep understanding of your challenges, we can tailor a strategy to address your specific legal needs. Call 817-203-2220 to schedule an attorney consultation.

Tough cases call for the toughest lawyers.

Varghese Summersett is a premier criminal defense firm based in Fort Worth, Texas. Our attorneys focus exclusively on criminal law and represent clients charged with crimes at both the state and federal level. We handle everything from DWI to capital murder to white collar crime. Collectively, our attorneys bring together more than 100 years of criminal law experience and have tried more than 550 cases before Texas juries. All of our senior attorneys served as former state or federal prosecutors and four are Board Certified in Criminal law, the highest designation an attorney can reach. We are the firm people turn to when the stakes are high and they are facing the biggest problem in their lives. - Contact Varghese at  
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