Attorney-Client Privilege: What is it and how do you protect it?

October 30, 2014 on 1:19 pm | In Business Planning, Common Interest Community, State & Federal Litigation, Susan B. Tarley | No Comments

The attorney-client privilege permits confidential communication between an attorney and her client.  The objective is to encourage open communication, which permits an attorney to provide thorough, competent and complete advice.  Generally speaking, only a client can waive the privilege, but as found by the Virginia Supreme Court in Walton v. Mid-Atlantic Spine Specialist, PC, et al., a client’s inadvertent disclosure of a privileged communication may operate as a waiver of the attorney-client privilege.

In this Williamsburg medical malpractice case, a defendant doctor wrote a letter to his attorney calling into question his medical diagnosis he gave to his patient. The doctor kept this letter in a separate notebook. During discovery the defendant medical practice used a third party service to copy document requests. The letter was provided inadvertently to the plaintiff.

Although the defendant claimed that he did not produce the letter or permit anyone else to produce the letter, the Court found that the defendant did not take adequate protection to protect the letter. The Court noted that the notebook in which the letter was found was not marked as confidential or privileged. Furthermore, the Court held that the client did not take prompt action following disclosure.

The Virginia Supreme Court considered five main factors in determining whether the inadvertent disclosure waived the client’s privilege.  The Court looked at:  (1) the reasonableness of the precautions to prevent inadvertent disclosures, (2) the time taken to rectify the error, (3) the scope of discovery, (4) the extent of the disclosure, and (5) whether the party asserting the claim of privilege or protection for the communication has used its unavailability for misleading or otherwise improper or overreaching purposes in the litigation making it unfair to allow the party to invoke confidentiality under the circumstances.

As a start, clients should maintain attorney-client privileged communications in a separate file or notebook and clearly mark the file or notebook and each communication as “CONFIDENTIAL-ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATION.”  Then, if an inadvertent disclosure is made, the client should contact her attorney as soon as possible to determine a plan of action to restore the attorney-client privilege.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

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Do you need an attorney to negotiate on your behalf?

March 31, 2014 on 10:31 am | In Business Planning, General Interest, Merger & Acquisition, Real Estate Litigation, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

This blog post comes from Jason Howell, our 2011 Summer Associate when he was a rising third-year law student at the William & Mary Law School. Jason is working with us this summer and debuts his first blog post.

Negotiation can be challenging. Whether you are negotiating the terms of a business agreement, trying to buy or sell property, or settling a dispute, getting to an agreement can be difficult. Even if you are successful in getting the other side to negotiate with you, you may feel at a disadvantage or worry that there is something in the final negotiated agreement you are missing.

Hiring an experienced attorney to represent you can give you advantages that can help you get to an acceptable agreement. By using an attorney in your negotiation, you can benefit from the attorney’s knowledge and skill, which can help you to reach your negotiation goals.

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Limited Liability Companies: What happens to an LLC when a Member dies?

September 3, 2013 on 9:26 am | In Business Planning, John Tarley, Merger & Acquisition, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

This case has been overturned by statute. Check out this blog post for the details.

We have written about the importance of operating agreements to help succession planning for your limited liability company (“LLC”). Operating agreements can help the company with procedures to remove a member, or with procedures to permit a member to leave the LLC on his own accord. This blog post reviews a recent Virginia Supreme Court case that shows the importance, and limitations of your LLC operating agreement to set forth succession planning of a member’s interest when that member dies.

Williamsburg Virginia Business Lawyers

LLC Agreements

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The Proposed Tax Legislation and You

December 12, 2010 on 3:17 pm | In Business Planning, Neal J. Robinson, Real Estate Strategies, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

In S8721, S. Amend.4753 amending H.R.4853, there is some good news with respect to the long in limbo future of federal estate and gift tax legislation for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2010.   Further, it appears that the estate and gift tax amendments are likely to pass both houses of Congress this year, though nothing is certain in the current legislative environment.

Under the proposed legislation, the amount of a decedent’s taxable estate excludable from estate tax would be $5 million.  For years beginning in 2012, the exclusion amount would be indexed for inflation.  While the provisions of the proposed legislation will sunset with the entirety of the proposed tax package, this time as of December 31, 2012, the inflation index provisions as to these provisions may be an indication that there exists some consensus that the estate and gift tax components of the current tax bill may represent appropriate long-term policy.

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