One of the most important things within the attorney-client relationship is confidentiality. Once said relationship is set in motion, the attorney is bound to keep everything the client says to him/her in confidence. They can’t go blabbing to their neighbor or best buddy as to what you talked about during your meeting. They can’t discuss the finer points of a conversation they had with a client over a quiet dinner with their spouse. And in this day in age, they most certainly can’t go on their Twitter and/or Facebook account and post a witty remark about the inner workings of your relationship.
Bound by the rules of ethics, an attorney is required to keep everything that is discussed within the confines of the attorney-client relationship confidential. To do this, said relationship must first be established. For example, if an attorney is talking with a friend about something personal and the attorney then “gossips” about the conversation to another friend or colleague, confidentiality is not broken because no actual attorney-client relationship between the parties was formally established. For confidentiality to exist, the attorney and client have to have a “meeting of the minds” and voluntarily enter into such a relationship. If not, anything you say to an attorney can and will be used against you, so to speak.
The rules of confidentiality also do not apply when a third party is present. Here, whatever is divulged to the attorney cannot be considered confidential because of the presence of the third party. If the third party is also a client that is involved in the same case, such as a husband and wife, then confidentiality would be back on the table. However, if a dispute were to arise between the husband and wife based off of what was said in confidence between them and the attorney, the attorney would not be bound to keep things in confidence in favor of one spouse over the other.
If a client discloses to their lawyer that they are going to cause harm to another individual, the lawyer in this scenario is not bound by the attorney-client relationship in terms of confidentiality and may notify the proper authorities to prevent said act.
Similarly, if a client tells their lawyer that they have intentions on hurting themselves, such as committing suicide, the lawyer is not bound in confidence and may alert the proper authorities.
While it is true that the attorney-client relationship allows the client to speak their mind without the stress and fear that their disclosure will end up in tomorrow’s “headlines,” there are numerous times when lawyers do not have to take the information “spilled” upon them to the grave. When talking to a lawyer and it is your wish to keep things secret and off their Facebook and Twitter feed, be certain an iron clad attorney-client relationship exists. Make sure nobody else in the room and don’t make mention of any intention to harm yourself or anyone else. If all of this is properly done, your attorney will then take your deepest, darkest secrets to the grave.