When is attorney client relationship formed?

Usually, an attorney-client relationship doesn't form until the lawyer and client agree. But the attorney-client privilege protects some communications made before the prospective client hires the lawyer, and even some where the lawyer is never hired. A) A person who consults with a lawyer about the possibility of forming a client-lawyer relationship with respect to a matter is a prospective client. B) Even where a client-lawyer relationship does not occur, a lawyer who has learned information from a prospective client will not use or disclose that information, except as Rule 1.9 would allow with respect to a previous client's information.

An attorney-client relationship is considered to be established immediately after the prospective client seeks legal advice from the lawyer regarding the former's business. However, the Court found that there was a factual question as to whether the clerk's actions created an implicit attorney-client relationship. If a lawyer provides legal advice to another person seeking it, and the lawyer can reasonably foresee that the prospective client will rely on that advice, or if the client reasonably believes that he was being represented by the lawyer, an attorney-client relationship forms. An attorney-client relationship is formed when a lawyer agrees to provide legal assistance to someone seeking the lawyer's services.

The client must demonstrate that the involvement of the attorney-client relationship is “objectively reasonable in all circumstances. Alternatively, the lawyer may agree to represent someone for all legal consequences matters that may arise, which creates an open and ongoing attorney-client relationship. However, an attorney-client relationship can be formed even without any charges changing hands and without a signed agreement. An attorney-client relationship can form slowly over time or quickly when services are needed immediately.

There are many aspects of the attorney-client relationship that are governed by professional liability rules. An implied attorney-client relationship can be created even if the client has never signed a fee agreement. Courts will tend not to involve an attorney-client relationship in which the lawyer would have a potential or actual conflict of interest if considered to represent the putative client.

Albert Richardson
Albert Richardson

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