Bar Counsel Notes: Client Confidentiality

Question:

The Court has recently granted an Attorney’s motion to withdraw request. The Attorney’s now former client has just told his former Attorney that he cannot find new counsel. He is very frustrated and has made some suicidal comments. Can the former Attorney reveal those comments in an effort to try to get help for his former client?

Answer:

Yes, under Rule 1.6(b) Attorney could reveal those comments, even if they had been privileged. However, given that Attorney is no longer representing the client, the remarks made by the former client are not privileged.

*Disclaimer: The Informal Ethics Advisory Notes from Bar Counsel are intended as outreach by the office of Bar Counsel for the use and benefit of the Maine bar. These scenarios are drawn from actual telephone calls received by the attorneys in the office of Bar Counsel in the course of providing informal advice on the Code of Professional Responsibility, known as Bar Counsel's "Ethics Hotline." The particular advice in each case is limited with reference to the particular factual situation related by the inquiring attorney who must be inquiring about his or her own conduct or the conduct of a member of his or her firm. We do not provide any advice to one attorney about the conduct of another attorney unless they are members of the same law firm. In the telephone opinions, we usually explore and discuss additional factual variables. However, I have attempted to pare down these factual scenarios to make the email newsletter more readable and useful in a general sense. Obviously, that creates the risk that slight variations on the facts, to a learned reader, may give rise to a different analysis and conclusion.