Attorney Client Relationship

U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1850 defined relationship in the case Stockton v. Ford

There are few of the business relations of life involving a higher trust and confidence than that of attorney and client, or, generally speaking, one more honorably and faithfully discharged; few more anxiously guarded by the law, or governed by sterner principles of morality and justice; and it is the duty of the court to administer them in a corresponding spirit, and to be watchful and industrious, to see that confidence thus reposed shall not be used to the detriment or prejudice of the rights of the party bestowing it.

This relationship may be either expressed in a document or implied by conduct of the parties.
The duty of an attorney, once this relationship exist is as follow, duty of fiduciary which is in part one of loyalty, confidentially an absolute duty that can only be relieved by the client's consent or if illegal acts exist or may occur, competency which means must be skilled and show good judgment on behalf of the client, and keep the client informed and up to date on all developments in the clients case.

The ruling in Stockton informs the lower courts that it is their duty to take action when it becomes apparent that a lawyer has breached the 'attorney client relationship'.

Attorney Client Privilege Is the Duty of Confidentiality
as defined by the American Bar Association

"Attorney-client privilege is the right of clients to refuse to disclose confidential communications with their lawyers, or to allow their lawyers to disclose them. It is the client’s privilege, not the lawyer’s, and is the earliest known ‘privileged communication’ in the law. The attorney-client privilege is viewed as fundamental to preserve the constitutionally based right to effective assistance of legal counsel, in that lawyers cannot function effectively on behalf of their clients without the ability to communicate with them in confidence."

There are a couple exceptions to attorney-client privilege. For example, if a client tells his lawyer that he is going to harm himself or someone else (and if the attorney believes this is a serious threat), then the lawyer has an obligation to reveal the confidential information to prevent anyone from being hurt or killed. In addition, a client can waive attorney-client privilege, giving the lawyer permission to share information with other people. Finally, if a client tells his lawyer something in the presence of another person (even a spouse), the information is not considered confidential.

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