What Type of Client Agent Can Attend a Privileged Meeting Without Risking the Privilege?

May 4, 2005

Many clients (and their lawyers) have learned to their horror that the presence of a client agent during privileged communications usually destroys the privilege. Is there any client agent whose presence does not jeopardize the privilege?

In Farahmand v. Jamshidi, Civ. A. No. 04-542 (JDB), 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2198 (D.D.C. Feb 11, 2005), defendant sought discovery of notes (in Farsi and English) taken at a meeting attended by the plaintiff, his lawyers and the plaintiff’s son-in-law. Defendant argued that the son-in-law’s presence destroyed the privilege. The court disagreed, relying on what the D.C. Circuit recognizes as a “reasonable necessity” exception to the “strict confidentiality requirement” underlying the privilege. Id. at *5 (citation omitted). Because the son-in-law was acting as an interpreter for the plaintiff in communicating with his lawyers, the son-in-law’s presence did not prevent the privilege from protecting the communications during the meeting, or the notes.

Courts generally find that client agents assisting in the transmission of information between clients and their lawyers are inside the intimate attorney-client relationship, so their presence does not destroy the privilege.