Does a Lawyer Have to Keep My Situation Private If I Don’t Hire Them?
Injury & Accident Attorney Serving Nearby Areas of Columbus & Fort Benning, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama
This content has been reviewed by Gary O. Bruce
Most people are aware that private conversations they have with their lawyer can’t be used against them in a trial, and they aren’t required to share anything they told their lawyer in confidence. That’s because of attorney-client privilege.
However, does this still apply if it’s a lawyer you’ve spoken with about your case, but not a lawyer you’ve officially hired to represent you? Thankfully, yes! Conversations during legal consultations are considered privileged communication.
This is a vital question to know the answer to, since “anything you say can and will be used against you” often proves true not only for criminal cases, but in civil cases, too! You have to be careful what you say and who you say it to, since if the insurance company finds out, they could twist it to try to prove you were at fault for your own accident, or that your injuries aren’t as severe as you claim to reduce or deny you compensation.
And no one wants to feel forced to work with an attorney they don’t trust or feel comfortable with simply because they’ve already told them private details about their accident.
What Happens in Your Consultation, Stays in Your Consultation
Until you sign the paperwork, there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the lawyer you are considering hiring. However, specific communications between you and a prospective lawyer are still protected! This includes consultations.
In an initial consultation with a lawyer, you will probably be asked to share a lot of private details about your accident to help the lawyer determine whether you have a viable claim. This could even include embarrassing information about your medical history, or anything else that could affect your claim. And it’s very important that an injury victim be completely open and honest about their situation for an attorney to provide the best legal advice.
If the lawyer agrees to take your case and you agree you’d like to hire them after the consultation, that’s great! But that doesn’t always happen. The lawyer may decline to take your case, or you may decide you’d like to hire a different lawyer. But thankfully, even if this lawyer does not end up being your lawyer, your conversation with them is still confidential.
In general, as long as someone is seeking legal advice from a licensed attorney in confidence, then what they say to the lawyer and what the lawyer says to them are considered privileged information, even if the person does not hire the lawyer.
Are There Exceptions?
There are several exceptions that could break the confidentiality of your conversations with your lawyer or a lawyer you are considering hiring.
- You must be talking to a licensed attorney—not a law student, not a paralegal, not a former attorney who is no longer practicing.
- The conversation must be between you and the lawyer alone—for example, if someone else is in the room, if someone else is copied on an email between you and the lawyer, or if you have a conversation in public where anyone could overhear, then these conversations are no longer private or privileged.
- The conversation must take place in the professional context of being a potential client—if you ask a lawyer friend for legal advice in casual conversation, your conversation won’t be privileged.
- You can’t get a lawyer to help you commit fraud—if someone admits to their lawyer they weren’t injured in their accident, the lawyer could not tell anyone about that confession, but they also could not go in front of a judge or jury and lie by saying their client was injured.
Contact Our Team for a Free Consultation
We know how difficult it can be to tell a lawyer who you may be meeting for the first time intensely private things, such as the ways your injury after an accident has impacted your day-to-day life. But know that whatever you tell us in your consultation with the intention of privacy will always stay strictly between us.
And at the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, we never charge for initial consultations, nor is anyone obligated to hire our firm simply because they spoke to one of our lawyers.
If you suffered an accident due to someone else’s negligence, contact our Georgia and Alabama personal injury lawyers today.