A recent decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit underscores the importance of the attorney-client privilege. In a case titled In re: Search Warrant Issued June 13, 2019, a law firm identified only as the “Law Firm” fought to protect the attorney-client privilege on behalf of its clients. The Fourth Circuit, recognizing that the privilege is a fundamental facet of effective legal representation, showed its willingness to scrupulously guard that privilege.
The attorney-client privilege protects confidential communications between an attorney and client. It has existed since the 16th Century, and is based on the recognition that attorneys will be able to give sound legal advice only if fully informed by the client. The privilege makes sure clients feel free to communicate fully and frankly with their attorneys without fear of disclosure. The privilege belongs to the client. That means the client, and only the client, can choose to waive the privilege and share communications with third parties. The attorney, however, is empowered to raise claims of attorney-client privilege on the client’s behalf, and is ethically required to protect the client’s privilege.
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