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Oregon Attorney-Client Confidentiality: Privilege Can Survive Death

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Oregon State Bar (OSB) Bulletin: June 2009: Duty of Confidentiality: Top 10 Myths, by Helen Hierschbiel, will be interesting for lawyer and client alike. It is another reminder to non-attorneys that you can’t learn the law from watching television shows or reading legal fiction, not that they aren’t fun and I highly recommend you keep enjoying both. But don’t confuse what you see portrayed on the big screen, or the Internet or in a novel, with the actual practice and word of law.

Excerpt: “If there is one duty that virtually all lawyers have ingrained in their psyches, it is the duty to protect their clients’ confidential information. Notwithstanding this basic instinct, myths about the duty abound. In a highly unscientific method called “asking around,” the OSB general counsel’s office compiled the following list of top 10 myths about the duty of confidentiality, and the truth behind these myths….

Myth #3: You may reveal your client’s confidences after the client has died.
Contrary to popular belief, the lawyer-client privilege survives the death of the client. The U.S. Supreme Court explained the purpose of this rule in Swidler & Berlin v. United States, 524 U.S. 399, 407 (1998), saying that posthumous application of the privilege encourages full and frank communication with counsel….”
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Link to Oregon Rules of Professional Responsibility and other sources of information on the regulation of attorneys in Oregon.