April 01, 2014

Is Confidentiality Really Forever: Even if the Client Dies or Ceases to Exist?

Questions about the expiration of privilege have important implications for attorneys.

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Many readers have heard of Lizzie Borden, tried and acquitted of the 1892 murder in Massachusetts of her father and stepmother. The case even inspired a rhyme:

Lizzie Borden took an axe

And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done

She gave her father forty-one.

What you may not know is that Lizzie Borden’s lead attorney’s law firm continues to this day to maintain her client files in a confidential manner. In contrast, the trove of notes kept by another attorney on the defense team were discovered by his grandson, who willed the client materials to the local Massachusetts historical society, making them generally accessible some 100 years after the murder trial.


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