Court Declines to Extend Blanket Privilege to Lawyer’s Communication to a Client

February 1, 2006

The attorney-client privilege developed in Elizabethan England to protect clients’ communications to their lawyers. Egocentric lawyers like to think that the privilege provides equal protection to their communications to clients, but technically this view is incorrect.

In Breon v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of New England, 232 F.R.D. 49, 54 (D. Conn. 2005), the court repeated a generally accepted axiom that a “communication running from the lawyer to the client is not protected unless it reveals what the client has said.” This principle highlights the client-centered view of the privilege. Of course, in many cases a lawyer’s communication to a client reflects what the client has told the lawyer.

However, some lawyer-to-client communications do not meet this standard, and therefore might not deserve privilege protection — the most frequent example is a lawyer’s communication to a client summarizing the lawyer’s conversation with a third party (such as an adversary, a government representative or a witness).