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Solicitor-Client Privilege

The point of solicitor-client privilege is to allow you to speak freely with your lawyer to obtain legal advice. You want to know your communications regarding advice will not be disclosed to anyone without your consent - not even through a search warrant. Yet the concept is often misunderstood by lawyers and clients alike and it is the subject of much litigation.

The name itself is misleading. The privilege is actually lawyer-client privilege. The distinction between solicitors and barristers arose in Britain; barristers went to court whereas solicitors did not. In Canada all lawyers are authorized to be both barristers and solicitors. Some lawyers choose never to go to court and they work entirely as a solicitor. I practise as both barrister and solicitor. 

Not all confidential communications are solicitor-client privileged: they can be simply confidential – a much lower standard than solicitor-client privileged. Confidential communications (oral or written) between the lawyer and client made for the purpose of obtaining or providing legal advice are solicitor-client privileged. Also protected are initial discussions about whether or not a potential client will hire the lawyer. 

The privilege belongs to the client. It is there to protect you and only you can decide to waive it. (As a lawyer, there are exceptional cases where I can disclose the communications without consent.) Protecting the privilege takes work. Even by talking to a friend about our communications, you have waived your privilege. Or by using an email account to which you have given someone else access. 

This article is a general description of one aspect of solicitor-client privilege. It may or may not apply to your case. If you are interested in this topic, feel free to request my free newsletter 'Solicitor-Client Privilege & Your Support Person'.