The legal system was designed so clients can speak openly with their attorneys, securing the legal guidance they need without information being used against them. To guard this exchange of information, clients are protected by client-attorney privileges and a duty of confidentiality. Together, these protections promote honesty and trust between you and your attorney.
But the system is not foolproof. What happens if your attorney wrongly shares confidential information and it does harm your case? Depending upon the circumstances, you may be able to file for legal malpractice.
What information is considered confidential?
Due to attorney-client privileges, attorneys may not share information that you tell them in confidentiality to secure legal guidance or representation. They may share information if you directly allow it. You can also lose your right to attorney-client confidentiality if you file a malpractice claim against your lawyer.
The duty of confidentiality protects clients in a broader sense. Instead of only protecting information exchanged between parties, attorneys cannot share any information about your case regardless of the source. This may include information about your life, case evidence or other knowledge known to the attorney but not known to the general population.
How do you know if it is legal malpractice?
To be legal malpractice, you must show that you did not authorize your attorney to share the confidential information, and that the attorney's actions harmed your case's outcome.
Sharing confidential client information breaches the code of attorney conduct, but you will still not have a malpractice claim unless you can show that their actions materially damaged your case outcome.
Legal malpractice cases can be complex and difficult to win. An experienced malpractice attorney can provide guidance if you are unsure how to proceed after your rights were violated.