Can the Attorney-Client Privilege Protect Communications Among Non-Lawyer Client Representatives?

September 20, 2006

Although the attorney-client privilege normally protects communications between clients and their lawyers, it can also protect communications just among client representatives (1) preparing to seek advice from their lawyer; or (2) relaying a lawyer’s advice to those within the corporation with a “need to know.”

In Williams v. Sprint/United Management Co., No. 03-2200-JWL-DJW, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4219 (D. Kan. Feb. 1, 2006), plaintiff argued that the privilege could not protect communications among Sprint employees which did not involve a lawyer. The court rejected that argument, explaining that “[i]n preparation for, or in the midst of, consultations with an attorney, employees of the client will often consult one another to insure that the attorney’s advice is based on full knowledge of all relevant facts.” Id. at *49.

To assure that a court will make this correct call, lawyers should train their clients to articulate in such communication that they are gathering facts for presentation to the company’s lawyer.