Have you ever met a lawyer at a party? (Insert stupid joke here…)
Seriously though, if you have met a lawyer at a party and told him/her about your legal troubles, you might have caused problems for that lawyer. I’ll explain…
If you talk to a lawyer at a party (or some other gathering) about your legal problems, then it could be interpreted as a ‘consultation’.
You might be thinking, “So what?”
Well, when consultations occur, certain issues (for the lawyer) arise.
To start, if you have a conversation with a lawyer, and that lawyer is representing the person on the ‘other side’, you could have just forced that lawyer to give up working on that file. I’ll explain…
All information given in a consultation needs to be kept confidential. And, a lawyer cannot represent a person if they have consulted with (and received confidential information from) the person on the ‘other side’ of the file.
Here is an example: imagine you’re going through a divorce and you start talking about that divorce with a lawyer at a party. Neither of you know beforehand, but the lawyer you’re talking to is representing your spouse. If that occurred, then that lawyer would probably have to stop working on that file (as it would be against the rules to act for one party after consulting with and receiving information from the opposing party).
In a small city like Kelowna, this is a real possibility.
Also, besides potentially losing work, the lawyer could be held legally (and financially) responsible for his/her comments to you.
To some people, lawyers are ‘walking insurance policies’.
Imagine this: someone approaches a lawyer at a party and tells them about a legal problem. In response, the lawyer says that he can’t help or isn’t familiar with that area of law; but, in trying to help, gives a few basic tips and says, “I am sure that everything will be fine”. The lawyer then leaves the conversation. Later, if the file goes sideways, that person could try to hold the lawyer responsible.
So, what should a lawyer do when approached by an acquaintance or stranger (with a legal problem) at a party? Well, to avoid these problems, the lawyer could say, “I don’t want to be impolite, but I don’t want you to reveal any information to me that I should not have about your legal problem.”
Of course, not every lawyer will do this. But, some lawyers will. To those lawyers, the risk of losing files or exposing himself/herself to liability is enough (to appear rude to a stranger).
And now you know.
**The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.
Originally posted on Castanet.net on December 18, 2012: Lawyers at Christmas parties.