What is the Attorney-Client Privilege in Pennsylvania?

The attorney-client privilege allows a client to prevent the disclosure of some communication between the client and their attorney, their agents, and employees. It is a way to encourage clients and their attorneys to be open and honest with each other because these communications should be confidential. 

But this privilege will not block every kind of communication. Under some circumstances, a client can waive this protection, and disclosure by an attorney could also result in others learning of what was said or written. 

How Does This Privilege Work? 

Pennsylvania law generally protects the confidentiality of certain communications between an attorney and their client. These protections are granted so clients can safely and fully disclose sensitive and possibly damaging information to receive proper legal advice. 

A client can refuse to disclose these communications and prevent others from disclosing confidential communications or information that would reveal a confidential communication. The parties to that communication are not just the client and attorney. They could be: 

  • The client or their representative and the client’s attorney or their representative 
  • The attorney and the attorney’s representative 
  • The client’s representatives or between the client and their representative 

The privilege can be claimed by: 

  • The client 
  • The attorney or their representative at the time of the communication, but only for their client 

The privilege does not cover others who may be harmed by the release. 

What are the Privilege’s Limits? 

The exceptions to allowing some communications to be kept secret include:  

  • If the attorney’s services or advice were sought or obtained to enable or help anyone commit or plan to commit what the client knows, or reasonably should know, was a crime or fraud 
  • Communications relevant to a possible breach of duty by the lawyer to the client or by the client to the attorney 

This confidentiality can be lost if you do certain things or fail to do other things: 

  • You intentionally disclose or agree to disclose the confidential communication’s subject matter 
  • You or your attorney fail to object to the communication’s disclosure during a legal proceeding 

The privilege is not waived if the disclosure is accidental and you and your attorney take reasonable steps to prevent further exposure and to correct the mistaken release. 

How Does This Affect Me? 

If you have retained our services, do not disclose to others any discussions we, our employees, or others we have retained have had. If the opposing party can show you are spilling the beans to others, we will have a hard time arguing to a judge that those are our secret beans and no one else’s. Some things are not anyone else’s business, including conversations with and information provided to or by your attorney. 

This includes not just verbal discussions but anything in writing, whether that is letters, forms, or emails we send you or that you send to us. The possible damage to your case far outweighs whatever benefit you think you may gain. 

Contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., if you have questions about this important topic. Call us at (866) 311-4783 or complete our online contact form today.