The Attorney-Client Privilege Can Protect Communications With a Foreign Agent Who is Analogous to an American Lawyer

August 8, 2001

With the increasing globalization of the world economy, companies often deal with agents in other countries who perform a job in their countries that American lawyers perform here. Does the attorney-client privilege protect communications with such agents?

One recent decision extended the privilege that far. In VLT Corp. v. Unitrode Corp., 194 F.R.D. 8, 19 (D. Mass. 2000), the court applied the attorney-client privilege to communications between an American company and a British “patent agent,” noting that the agent’s “communications with his clients concerning patent matters are entitled to the same privileges under British law as are the communications of a solicitor.” The court explained that United States courts “generally have recognized the privilege under the principle of comity.”

Lawyers who deal with overseas agents should familiarize themselves with the agents’ role so that the attorney-client privilege can be applied to the maximum degree possible.