By Melissa Caballero Alton, Esq.
Have you ever met with an attorney to discuss a legal matter? If so, did you know that the entire conversation you had with that attorney is confidential? As tempting as it might be to call your bestie, mom, employee, or business partner and spill all the details of what went on during your meeting with your attorney, confidentiality is an extremely important part of an attorney-client relationship and it should be respected and upheld by BOTH the attorney and the client.
What is confidentiality?
If you want the technical definition, the Florida Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct 4-1.6(a) states that “a lawyer must not reveal information relating to representation of a client…”. There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule though. For example, if you tell your lawyer that you intend to commit a crime or intend to cause harm or death to another, then that gives your lawyer to green light to open his/her mouth to the appropriate authorities who can help prevent said crime, harm, or death. So keep that in mind if you’re considering using your lawyer as a sounding board for all of your next murder scheme.
Generally, though, confidentiality is important for both sides of the attorney-client relationship in that it protects your rights as a client and preserves the information that is essential to your case, including any claims and defenses that will help your attorney adequately represent you. If you, as the client, blab about your attorney’s strategy in your legal matter to your neighbors, not only does that expose your case’s weaknesses to complete strangers but it also invites unsolicited advice from non-attorneys, which is typically unfounded and unwelcome. Every legal matter and case is unique, and everyone’s experiences with attorneys is different because each fact pattern is different. Therefore, by sharing your story and your attorney’s legal advice to you with others who are not involved personally in your case, you’re making your chances of success vulnerable and possibly revealing your strategy to the other side.
Additionally, by knowing that your conversation with an attorney is confidential, it fosters an environment of comfort in what might otherwise may be an unpleasant situation. Whether you are the Plaintiff (the party who is suing the other side) or the Defendant (the party who is being sued), it’s important that you feel comfortable enough with your attorney to tell them everything – all of the facts leading up to the legal matter you’re involved in, what spurred the lawsuit, what issues are concerning you, what allegations you don’t want to expose in court, and what you’re feeling. Keeping confidentiality with your attorney from beginning to end helps ensure a feeling of confidence between you and him/her that will benefit the relationship in the long run.
As attorneys, our obligation is to our clients and the preservation of their rights. Confidentiality allows us to work diligently for our clients without interference from third parties or the opposition, who certainly do not have our clients’ best interests in mind. So next time you pick up the phone to speak to a lawyer, remember to speak freely, confidently, and know that the information you provide that lawyer will be used for your ultimate benefit and success. Our attorneys’ pride themselves on appreciating the confidential nature of your legal matter and with Alton Law you know you are on the Alton Road to a Brighter Tomorrow.