As an attorney, you often hear the things about your clients that you wouldn’t ever want to repeat. People often come to lawyers at the worst times in their lives, and they need to be honest with you.
One of the most important parts of your job as an attorney is to keep your client’s information confidential. The attorney-client privilege is vital to your ability to do your job, since you need those you serve to trust that they can give you the information you need in order to properly represent them.
When can you disclose client information?
Under certain circumstances, you can disclose client information. For instance, if you work in a firm, you may share sensitive client information with other attorneys in the office unless the client specifically tells you not to or restricts the attorneys you may provide the information to within the firm. You may also be able to admit a fact told to you by your client that the parties involved do not dispute and which could bring a resolution to the matter.
If the information provided to you by a client puts lives in imminent danger, you may divulge the information. You must believe that a real substantial threat of harm exists and that withholding the information could result in harm in the future. Moreover, you may not enable your client in committing criminal acts or fraud at a later date. If you have foreknowledge of such potential activities and believe the threat of them to be real, your duty is clear. Under certain circumstances, you may also need to disclose information after a crime.
If you find yourself in an ethical quandary regarding disclosing client information, you may discuss the matter with another attorney in order to determine your best course of action. In this case, the other attorney is representing you, which creates an attorney-client privilege between you.
You already disclosed the information
Even if you believe that you acted appropriately in disclosing certain information, your client may not agree. You could face disciplinary action if that client files a complaint against you with the California and/or American Bar Association. If this happens, you may want to consider enlisting the aid of a colleague with experience in attorney disciplinary matters, since the board follows its own rules and procedures.
Without adequate knowledge of how this process works, you could make matters worse for yourself and jeopardize your livelihood, even if you have the truth and the law on your side.