Illinois attorney-client privilege: safeguarding confidentiality and legal protection
Personal Injury - July 16, 2023
When you work with an attorney, your conversations will usually be protected under attorney-client privilege. This means you can tell your lawyer the complete and unfiltered truth about your situation without fear of betrayal or retribution.
However, when you’re speaking with your attorney, others may attempt to listen in and violate that privilege. Let’s examine some considerations about attorney-client privilege in Illinois and how to protect yourself against troublesome eavesdroppers.
How attorney-client privilege works
Attorney-client privilege is a protection meant to create trust between you and your lawyer so you can share every detail of your case. Without this honesty, your lawyer can’t do their best work in protecting your rights.
For example, if you suffered a work injury but may have some liability, your attorney needs to know anything the opposing counsel might uncover.
Attorney-client privilege covers physical notes, emails, letters, and conversations in person or over the phone. These communications are under privilege when they pertain to the acts of seeking, obtaining, or receiving legal assistance.
Some information isn’t protected, including:
- The fact that you met with and may need an attorney
- Conversations or messages in public settings, including the presence of a third person who is not inside the attorney-client relationship
- Communications covered under the crime-fraud exception
- Meetings where the lawyer is in attendance but not providing specific legal guidance
- The general topic of conversation, such as litigation or defense assistance
It’s important to note that attorney-client privilege extends to any employee of your attorney’s law firm working on your case in an official capacity.
Violations of the attorney-client privilege
There are some instances where your privilege can be violated, whether intentionally or not. In a recent case in Florida, police listened in on a conversation with a woman and her lawyer, discovering that the woman decided not to turn over her written confession. The detective listening to them entered the room and snatched the paper away from the defendant. She then attached it to her police report as evidence.
Other violations are more technical in nature, such as the current concern about Google’s scanning and storage of customer emails. This could potentially violate attorney-client privilege if a client uses Gmail to communicate with their lawyer.
Protecting your attorney-client privilege in Illinois is crucial
The Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments protect your right to a fair and speedy trial with legal representation. However, Illinois law does not have a good history of favoring the attorney-client privilege covered under these Amendments.
You can take simple but effective steps to protect your privacy, such as:
- Ensure that your phone and email communications are secure (encrypted is best).
- Avoid talking about your attorney-client conversations with other people.
- Don’t cc: individuals on emails with your lawyer.
- Don’t converse with your attorney when others are close by.
- Don’t post anything about your case on any social media site.
- Speak with your attorney in person and in private whenever possible.
If you are not protecting your privacy, the courts will not be encouraged to preserve it if you claim privilege later on. You must work closely with your lawyer to avoid allowing others access to your discussions. Although there are some extreme instances where law enforcement may violate your rights, your lawyer will take all necessary actions to minimize the effects.
Contact a qualified Illinois attorney to learn more
Protecting your privacy is a key part of being a lawyer. At Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, we pride ourselves on our integrity, dedication, and tenacity in ensuring our clients have every advantage while we manage their cases.