The Self-Defense Exception to the Attorney’s Ethical Obligation to Maintain Client Confidences

by Michael F. Pezzulli
couple meeting with lawyerAttorney-Client Privilege in Civil Litigation, 2nd Edition 1997 – American Bar Association

Analysis of the attorney’s obligations and rights relating to attorney client privilege when sued. Attorneys operate under a broad ethical mandate not to disclose client confidences. This ethical obligation can apply to communications made prior to the establishment of an attorney-client relationship and survives the death of the client. It is broader than the attorney-client evidentiary privilege. As incorporated into virtually all codes of professional responsibility, there is an exception to the rule allowing an attorney
to disclose client confidences in “self-defense.” The self-defense exception is the focus of this paper.

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