I often receive phone calls from people who are hesitant to give me basic information, such as their employer’s name, or even their own names. People are understandably nervous about speaking with an attorney, and for many it is the first time ever speaking with a lawyer. Some fear that I will report them to their employer, or that their employer will retaliate. This article is intended to calm those fears and discuss when, and why, an initial phone call with a lawyer is confidential and privileged.
As a general rule, any communication between a lawyer and a client is confidential and subject to the attorney client privilege. The attorney cannot tell that information to anyone without the client’s consent. Importantly, this privilege applies to the lawyer’s prospective clients, as well as actual clients. The privilege statute, Louisiana Code of Evidence article 506 includes “who consults a lawyer with a view to obtaining professional legal services from the lawyer.” If you speak to a lawyer regarding your legal concerns — even if you decide not to hire him, or decide to hire someone else, or decide not to hire a lawyer at all — your conversations are privileged and anything you say cannot be divulged to anyone without your express consent. Simply put, if you call a lawyer’s office regarding a possible case, anything you tell that lawyer is confidential and cannot be reported back to your employer without your permission.
A lawyer must know who you are, and who your employer is, before offering any legal advice. For one thing, a lawyer must know what state you are in, because laws differ depending on where you live. Advice that is valid in Louisiana may be wrong in New York, so it is important to let the lawyer know where you live and work. An attorney must also know your employer’s name because of the possibility of conflicts of interest. There are very strict rules preventing lawyers from taking on any representation, or giving any advice, that could harm a current or (in some cases) a former client. If the lawyer represents your company, or your supervisor, he must know that right away, and end the conversation ASAP. This is very unlikely, but it is possible. If this is the case, the lawyer cannot report to the company that you called.
However, a critical component of the attorney client relationship is trust. That goes both ways – a client must be confident that an attorney will not go behind his or her back, and an attorney must be confident that the client is providing him with the complete truth. The attorney-client privilege is intended to protect all communications between lawyers and clients, or potential clients, so that they may speak freely with each other. If you have any questions, call New Orleans overtime lawyer Charles Stiegler at (504) 267-0777 or email me today. The consultation is free, and confidential.