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privilege that confidential communications between an attorney and a client in the course of the professional relationship cannot be disclosed without the consent of the client. It is the oldest of the privileges for confidential communications known to the common law. Its purpose is to encourage full and frank communication between attorneys and their clients and thereby promote broader public interests in the observance of law and administration of justice. Such communications may take the form of oral or written statements or may be actions and gestures. Communications made to an attorney while seeking to obtain representation, even though the attorney did not ultimately represent the client, are nonetheless privileged. The privilege protects discussions of past crimes but does not extend to the client’s proposed commission of future crimes. If third parties (generally including relatives and friends but excluding law clerks, stenographers, or interpreters) are present, the privilege may be destroyed. The privilege extends indefinitely, and does not terminate when the attorney/client relationship ends or when either party dies. Communications between a corporate general counsel and corporate employees have been found to be protected. Finally, the privilege to prohibit disclosure belongs to the client, and as such may be waived by the client.
ACCOUNTANT-CLIENT PRIVILEGE Available in about one-third of the states rendering confidential all communications to an accountant. Such communications are not otherwise privileged. If the accountant is also an attorney, the attorney-client privilege may not apply if the accountant-attorney was acting in the capacity of an accountant. If, however, a client communicates to an accountant designated by the client’s attorney in confidence for the purpose of obtaining legal advice from the lawyer, it is then privileged. See privileged communications.
Source: Barron's Dictionary of Legal Terms, Steven H. Gifis, 5th Edition; © 2016