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August 11, 2015

New York Law Journal

By: Joel Cohen

Every practicing attorney knows—or should—that any confidence learned from the client in the confessional of his representation must remain confidential. The communication is protected by the attorney-client privilege. If there was any doubt, the Supreme Court, addressing the death of Bill Clinton’s friend/Deputy White House counsel, Vincent Foster, held that the communication (there, between Foster and his lawyer) is protected not simply until the client dies, but forever.

Meaning, if the client tells his lawyer something during the attorney-client relationship, the attorney must take the disclosure to his grave. Indeed, would a client willingly “tell all” to her lawyer if she thought that the day the representation ended, or even the day after the client died, the lawyer would be free to disclose what the client said during a weakened state of needing a lawyer, particularly a criminal lawyer? No—a client will likely not disclose to her lawyer all the facts unless assured that the information will be confidential.  And, given the Internet era, just imagine how fearful a public figure would be knowing that his lawyer could properly write a tell-all about back-when, when he represented and received confessional-like confidences from Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie, Brian Williams or even Paris Hilton. Thus, the “attorney-client privilege” is ingrained in every lawyer’s being.

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