You’ve finally made the very difficult decision to consult with a lawyer about a divorce. You spoke to your best friend or to a trusted advisor, and you got up your courage to make the appointment. Now comes the part that scares you the most: the first meeting with your attorney.
Like most other people, you’ve never set foot inside a lawyer’s office, much less spoken to one, so you don’t know what to expect. Add to this the intimacy of the subject—family law—this meeting is even scarier than it might be if you were discussing, say, a car accident or business dispute. Clients who need to see me are filled with emotions—sadness, anger, loss.
Given the sense of dread that goes along with this first meeting, many of my new clients want someone to be with them, perhaps a trusted friend or a family member, to figuratively (or maybe literally) hold their hand and to help them remember what the lawyer says. While this desire for support is certainly understandable it creates a situation where your conversation with the lawyer may not be confidential.
As a matter of law, communications between lawyers and their clients are “privileged,” meaning neither you nor your lawyer can be required to divulge anything that was said. However, when you bring a third party into a meeting, whether it’s your parent, your sibling, or your BFF, you run the risk of losing this privilege.
There are a few very limited exceptions to this rule, such as when the person you bring with you is essential for providing information and assisting your attorney. The function of the third party, their relationship to you, determines whether the privilege encompasses communications made in the presence of the third party.
It is important to consider what you are going to discuss with your attorney before you bring that friend or family member with you. If you choose to bring someone with you, your lawyer should discuss with you the possibility of confidentiality being compromised before you begin your conversation about the issues in your case. In the great majority of circumstances, the third party will NOT be considered essential, and keeping them in the room could have negative consequences.
If you have any questions about the confidentiality of your communications, contact your attorney before you bring that family member or friend with you.