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When can an attorney disclose client information?

| Feb 1, 2021 | Professional Malpractice

You want your attorney to keep information related to your case confidential. If not, your case could suffer damage and the public may learn some embarrassing information about you. If your attorney does not follow proper ethical guidelines when disclosing your information, it could lead to a lawsuit for malpractice.

An attorney can only reveal your information in certain circumstances. The American Bar Association explains when an attorney has the authority to go ahead and make disclosures about your case.

Expressed authorization

There may be times when you want your attorney to talk about certain matters. In these situations, it is up to you to give informed consent to your lawyer. Informed consent happens when you know all the risks and benefits of disclosure before providing permission to your attorney to reveal information.

Implied authorization

Sometimes an attorney must disclose specific information about your case as part of your representation. This is part of the principle of implied authorization. Be sure that you know in advance what your attorney must reveal to allow your representation to proceed.

Court orders

A court may hand down an order requiring disclosure of information. Failing to reveal information as required by a court can result in contempt of court and other legal penalties. Your attorney is also subject to federal or state laws that may compel disclosure. Be aware that in these cases your attorney may have no choice in the matter.

Preventing harm or crimes

There are also instances where an attorney may disclose your information to prevent certain types of harm. Your lawyer may want to keep you from harming or killing yourself or prevent you from committing a crime. Your attorney could also reveal your information to defend against charges if the attorney has to fight a civil claim or a criminal charge that involves your case.

Given that there is room for attorneys to claim they can disregard confidentiality, you must feel sure that an attorney has wronged you. A claim of legal malpractice is generally not easy to prove. Nonetheless, you may have a case if disclosing information has done significant damage to your life.