What is attorney client privilege?

Attorney-client privilege is a legal rule that courts use to preserve the confidentiality of written and verbal communications between lawyers and their clients. If the attorney-client privilege applies to a communication, then neither the lawyer nor the client can be compelled to testify about the communication or produce records (such as email) covered by the privilege, in a trial or other legal proceeding. For this reason, it is a strong protection the College values.

Why does the legal system care about protecting these communications?

The rationale for the attorney-client privilege is that protected communication will encourage clients to be forthcoming with attorneys and in turn, fully informed attorneys give the most comprehensive legal advice, which will lead to better compliance and smoother College operations.

Does the privilege apply to me personally?

The privilege applies to the organization.  The attorney is in the position to know whether the information can be shared internally with others who have a legal need to know.  If you tell a College attorney something personal about a non-College matter, such as a family law or criminal issue outside the College, it is not subject to attorney-client privilege because OGC attorneys are not your personal attorney.

Does the privilege apply to Emerson as an organization?

Yes. Therefore, communications that Emerson employees have with College attorneys in their Emerson capacities, in confidence, for the purpose of seeking legal advice concerning College legal matters are protected by the attorney-client privilege.

What do employees need to do to preserve the privilege?

Remember that confidentiality is the key. Disclosing the substance of the attorney-client communication to persons outside the College – or even to persons within the College who are not directly involved in the matter – may destroy the privilege. So it is important not to share confidential communications with College attorneys (both members of the Office of the General Counsel and outside counsel) about College matters with anyone outside the College, including family and friends. Employees with questions about how this works or how to do their jobs while managing legal questions should contact the Office of the General Counsel for help. It's a complicated area of the law and we are here to help employees navigate these issues.