Under certain circumstances, communications between an attorney and his or her client may be “privileged.” This means that neither the attorney nor the client can be required to divulge the communication as part of a legal process, such as an investigation or a lawsuit. The purpose of the attorney-client privilege is to encourage clients to communicate freely with their attorneys, which enables attorneys to provide the best legal advice. The legal rules surrounding the attorney-client privilege are complex but, in general, a communication may be considered privileged if it was made in confidence, between a client and an attorney, for the purpose of seeking or giving legal advice. Because confidentiality is a requirement for invoking the attorney-client privilege, a communication may lose its privileged status if it is shared with a third party. Thus, in order to protect the privilege, it is important to consistently maintain confidentiality.
Attorneys in the OGC and the private lawyers that Yale sometimes employs represent the University, and the University is always their client. However, in many circumstances, Yale’s officers and employees may also be clients of the University’s attorneys, and their communications with Yale’s lawyers may be protected by the attorney-client privilege. For this reason, it is important to maintain the confidentiality of legal advice provided by the University’s attorneys. If you have sought legal advice from one of Yale’s lawyers, and you are not sure whether, or with whom, you can share any responsive communication, you should contact the OGC at 432-4949.