The Purposes of Advocacy and the Limits of Confidentiality

The privilege of confidentiality between lawyer and client is a significant barrier to the search for truth and the attainment of justice. Since bankers, accountants, psychiatrists, and confessors are not entitled at common law to confidentiality in their relationships with those with whom they deal, one may well inquire why lawyers possess such an extraordinary privilege. In the early English case which established the lawyer-client privilege, counsel offered several justifications: (I) A “gentleman of character” does not disclose his client’s secrets. (2) An attorney identifies himself with his client, and it would be “contrary to the rules of natural justice and equity” for an individual to betray himself. (3) Attorneys are necessary for the conduct of business, and business would be destroyed if attorneys were to disclose their communications with their clients.