Can I Keep Secrets From My Attorney?

What exactly is attorney-client privilege and how much should I tell my attorney?

Do I need to tell my attorney everything? Transcript

Hi. I’m Lee Rosen. Do I need to tell my attorney everything?

I had a client. We just finished the case a few months back, and we were in a mediation. And this is a client I had been working with for several months getting ready for the mediation. And I had asked all the usual questions-was there anything going on that I needed to know? We went through the issues. And he told me, “No, no, no, no, everything is good.”

We’re sitting in the mediation. We’ve laid out our position. We’re waiting for the other side to respond. And they do respond with a pile of printed out text messages, emails, even some photographs, making it very clear that my guy had been involved with another woman. It was a disaster. I had no idea that it was coming. If I had known, we would have taken a very different strategic approach in the case. I was blindsided, and it really hurt his chances. Not a good situation.

There are lots of things you may not want to tell your attorney, whether it’s an adulterous relationship or a financial situation that’s embarrassing or some sort of sexual issue, but if you don’t tell, there’s going to be fallout.

Your attorney is not going to judge you. We’ve seen it all. We’ve heard it all. We wouldn’t be in this business if we weren’t comfortable with what’s going on in the families that we’re dealing with. You don’t need to worry about us judging you or thinking poorly about you. The reality is if you did it, it’s likely to come out. You need to go ahead and tell us.

Now understand that the attorney won’t tell. You have an attorney-client privilege. You have a confidential relationship. The attorney is not going to reveal this information. This will be your secret, safe between you and the attorney.

Most importantly, if the attorney doesn’t know what happened, if the attorney doesn’t know all of the facts, the attorney can’t prepare a response. The attorney can’t work with you to develop the best approach for dealing with whatever went on. And there is always a good approach. No conduct is ever so outrageous that there’s not a good way to deal with it. So go ahead and tell your story.

Listen, I understand your reluctance to talk about this stuff. I have things in my life I wouldn’t want to talk about. It’s only human. You’re being normal. You’re being reasonable. But you’ve come to the lawyer for help. The lawyer needs to know everything so that the lawyer can do for you the things that you need done.

The conversation will be short. It will be brief, and it won’t be something the lawyer hasn’t heard before. Just let the cat out of the bag. You’ll feel better, and you’ll know that the lawyer is doing the right things to help you get through this process most effectively.

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