Attorney-Client Privilege Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Attorney-Client Privilege, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Attorney-Client Privilege?

(n) Attorney-Client Privilege is the doctrine which prohibits use of the information communicated between the Attorney and Client during the legal preparation stage by making them public or using them against the interest of the client and in the legal issues. This privilege helps the client to pass on full and confidential information to his Attorney.

History and Meaning of Attorney-Client Privilege

Attorney-Client Privilege is a fundamental legal principle that protects confidential communications between clients and their lawyers. The origin of this privilege can be traced back to medieval times when the clergy and doctors enjoyed a similar privilege to protect confidential communications. The privilege is based on the fundamental idea that a client should be able to speak truthfully and candidly with their attorney without being afraid that their words will be used against them later in a court of law.

Today, the Attorney-Client Privilege is recognized in many countries around the world and is considered a cornerstone of the legal profession. It has been established through case law and statutes in many jurisdictions and is subject to certain limitations.

Examples of Attorney-Client Privilege

  1. During a criminal trial, the defendant's lawyer cannot be compelled to testify against their client or to disclose any confidential information shared by the defendant.
  2. A client can speak candidly with their lawyer about their involvement in a civil lawsuit without worrying that their statements will be used against them later.
  3. A lawyer cannot disclose to the court any confidential conversations with their client that took place before the client filed for bankruptcy.
  4. A lawyer cannot disclose the legal advice they gave to their client in order to help the prosecution in a criminal case.
  5. A client can disclose to their lawyer a plan to commit a crime without fear that the lawyer will disclose this information to the authorities.

Legal Terms Similar to Attorney-Client Privilege

  1. Work Product Doctrine: Protects materials prepared by an attorney in anticipation of litigation.
  2. Executive Privilege: Allows the President of the United States to withhold information from the public or Congress.
  3. Doctor-Patient Privilege: Similar to Attorney-Client Privilege but applies to confidential communications between doctors and patients.