Most people know that conversations they have with their lawyer are confidential. That means the lawyer cannot discuss the information given to them by the client with anyone else, except in very limited circumstances where they have a legal obligation to do so.
Another special protection that exists for information between lawyers and their clients is legal professional privilege. Privilege is a special protection provided to information gathered or communications made for the purpose of either:
- Giving legal advice
- Engaging in anticipated or existing legal proceedings.
In each case, the privilege belongs to the client. The client cannot be forced to reveal information or documents which are protected by legal professional privilege.
Some of the law involved with legal professional privilege can be confusing. What clients need to know is that privilege can be waived. That means, if a client no longer wishes to rely on the protection of legal professional privilege, the information or documents can be obtained by other people, including the client’s former spouse or their lawyer. The waiver of privilege can occur by the client telling another person about the advice they have received.
It is for that reason that we will always make sure you understand that the advice we provide has been prepared solely for your benefit. We generally do not recommend that you share with another person the specific details of the advice you have received. Telling someone else about that advice may mean you are no longer protected by legal professional privilege.
Once legal professional privilege has been waived, it is usually waived in relation to all advice received about a particular topic. That means telling your former partner about one specific part of the family law advice you receive could mean they are entitled to know all of the family law advice you have received from that lawyer.
If you are uncertain about whether you should be sharing advice or information you have received, you should always check with your lawyer before discussing the advice with anyone else.