Elements of the Attorney-Client Privilege

Because the attorney-client privilege often prevents disclosure of information that would be relevant to a legal proceeding, courts are cautious when examining objections grounded in the privilege. Most courts generally require that certain elements be demonstrated before finding that the privilege applies. Although the elements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, one often cited recitation of the elements was articulated in U.S. v. United Shoe Machinery Corp., 89 F.Supp. 357 (D.Mass. 1950), where the court enumerated the following five-part test: (1) the person asserting the privilege must be a client or someone attempting to establish a relationship as a client; (2) the person with hom the client communicated must be an attorney and acting in the capacity as an attorney at the time of the communication; (3) the communication must be between the attorney and client exclusively; (4) the communication must be for the purpose of securing a legal opinion, legal services, or assistance in some legal proceeding, and not for the purpose of committing a crime or fraud; and (5) the privilege may be claimed or waived by the client only.


Inside Elements of the Attorney-Client Privilege