What is LEGAL PROFESSIONAL PRIVILEGE? What does LEGAL PROFESSIONAL PRIVILEGE mean?

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Published at : 18 Dec 2020
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What is LEGAL PROFESSIONAL PRIVILEGE? What does LEGAL PROFESSIONAL PRIVILEGE mean? LEGAL PROFESSIONAL PRIVILEGE meaning - LEGAL PROFESSIONAL PRIVILEGE definition - LEGAL PROFESSIONAL PRIVILEGE explanation.

Source: Wikipedia.org article, adapted under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ license.

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In common law jurisdictions, legal professional privilege protects all communications between a professional legal adviser (a solicitor, barrister or attorney) and his or her clients from being disclosed without the permission of the client. The privilege is that of the client and not that of the lawyer.

The purpose behind this legal principle is to protect an individual's ability to access the justice system by encouraging complete disclosure to legal advisers without the fear that any disclosure of those communications may prejudice the client in the future.

The common law principle of legal professional privilege is of extremely long standing. The earliest recorded instance of the principle in English case-law dates from 1577 in the case of Berd v Lovelace the full report of which states:

Thomas Hawtry, gentleman, was served with a subpoena to testify his knowledge touching the cause in variance; and made oath that he hath been, and yet is a solicitor in this suit, and hath received several fees of the defendant; which being informed to the Master of the Rolls, it is ordered that the said Thomas Hawtry shall not be compelled to be deposed, touching the same; and that he shall be in no danger of any contempt, touching the not executing of the same process.

The principle originated as protection for individuals when accessing the knowledge and legal resources available to a lawyer and was said to stem from the "oath and honour" of the lawyer, a sort of special contractual relationship. It was based on the fact that the ordinary citizen could not safely navigate the complexities of the law and justice system without some assistance. However, without protection the quality of the advice would suffer as clients would be discouraged from making full disclosure to their legal representatives. As Lord Brougham put it in Greenough v Gaskell (1833):

The foundation of this rule is not difficult to discover. It is not (as has sometimes been said) on account of any particular importance which the law attributes to the business of legal professors, or any particular disposition to afford them protection ... But it is out of regard to the interests of justice, which cannot be upholden, and to the administration of justice, which cannot go on without the aid of men skilled in jurisprudence, in the practice of the courts, and in those matters affecting rights and obligations which form the subject of all judicial proceedings. If the privilege did not exist at all, every one would be thrown upon his own legal resources, deprived of professional assistance, a man would not venture to consult any skilful person, or would only dare tell his counsellor half his case".
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