New clients often approach legal interviews with fear, anxiety, and nervousness. These feelings and the need to discuss embarrassing or damaging information may dramatically affect the communication between attorney and client. Confidentiality doctrines are intended to foster candid communication, but clients are unlikely to understand "confidentiality" without explanation. The author concludes that attorneys are ethically obligated to explain confidentiality, but that the typical explanation is misleading. It fails to alert clients to the many instances in which confidentiality does not attach, legal or ethical rules override the attorney's duty not to reveal information, or the lawyer is allowed to use information to the client's detriment. Before the interview begins, interviewees should be told that certain information or communications may or must be revealed, so that they can make informed choices about the breadth of their disclosures, choosing lawyers, or even foregoing legal representation completely.
Lawyers, Clients and Assurances of Confidentiality: Lawyers Talking without Speaking, Clients Hearing Without ListeningGeorgetown Journal of Legal Ethics
Citation InformationRoy M. Sobelson, Lawyers, Clients and Assurances of Confidentiality: Lawyers Talking without Speaking, Clients Hearing without Listening, 1 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 703 (1988).