Individuals facing divorce, custody, paternity or termination matters in family court often have complicated situations with sensitive information. Deciding to share this information with an attorney, and also with other professionals involved in the case, can be embarrassing and confusing. Occasionally, this embarrassment leads to not sharing all of the pertinent information with the attorney. Having your attorney without all of the facts and circumstances can be extremely harmful to the proper presentation of your case. Today's blog post will address the the issue of attorney/client confidentiality, which forms the basis of an effective attorney/client relationship.
What information must my lawyer keep confidential?
Lawyers have a strict ethical responsibility to keep the client's information confidential, and are not at liberty to share the client's information with others outside the lawyer's firm. This responsibility begins with the first consultation between the lawyer and client, and applies even if the client chooses not to retain the attorney for representation. The duty of confidentiality applies even after the attorney/client relationship has ended. Obviously, much of the information shared with the attorney will need to be used in Court and shared with others, but only with the client's consent.
This responsibility exists regardless of who pays the attorney's fee. For example, a client's sister may pay all or part of the attorney's fee, but will not be entitled to any information from the attorney or attorney's staff.
Are there exceptions to the duty of confidentiality?
Attorneys may freely share confidential information with employees of the law firm. These staff members share the same duty of confidentiality and so may not share the information with any outside third party.
If the attorney obtains information regarding child abuse or neglect, the attorney is required by law to report the abuse or neglect to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, regardless of whether the client consents.
Of course, the client may consent to the sharing of confidential information. It is important that clients trust the attorney and his/her staff with confidential information, and that the attorney and client openly discuss all of the pertinent information, then decide together what information to share with others.
The family lawyers of Christiansen Law Firm have significant experience over 20 years representing clients in family law matters. Contact the attorneys of Christiansen Law Firm in Houston or San Antonio for additional information about the attorney/client relationship or to schedule a free consultation about your family law matter.