Communications to and from attorneys in an attorney-client consultation are generally protected from disclosure by law and by ethical standards, known as attorney-client privilege. The purpose of the privilege is to encourage honest exchange between an attorney and client so that accurate and objective advice may be given.
Clients of the Office of University Counsel, like all users of attorneys, should be aware that there are limitations on the attorney-client privilege. Key points to remember:
- The protection is not absolute and does not apply to every communication with an attorney. The communication must be within the attorney-client relationship, and intended to be confidential. The privilege was not created for the purpose of hiding facts or documents; consequently, merely copying an attorney with correspondence or sending documents to us does not mean the matters conveyed will be privileged.
- The protection may be waived by consent of the client or by disclosure of the communication. Our clients should take care before forwarding our advice to another party, because such action may waive the privilege. Generally, conveying attorney advice to persons who are directly involved with a decision on behalf of the University will not void the privilege. Disclosure of significant legal advice to persons without such a need to know should be made only after consultation with appropriate university administrators.
- Since our services are dedicated to the University as a whole, and then to those acting in an official capacity, communications by individual employees to us may be disclosed to other administrators or attorneys representing or advising the University as necessary to serve the interests of ISU. Persons whose personal interests may conflict with the University may wish to secure, at their cost, advice of a private attorney.
This is a very generalized discussion of the privilege. If you have questions about attorney-client privilege in your work with ISU, please talk with one of the attorneys on our staff.