Monday, July 26, 2010

Lawyers and "Confidentiality"

Another good "(many) lawyers are evil" (my interpretation) article.
Lawyers, in short, have carved out a role for themselves as the privileged keepers of much information that is important to the public interest. Historically, lawyers have liked to think of themselves as defenders of individual liberty against an overbearing state, primarily through traditional advocacy—that is, persuasively asserting a client's rights. Today, however, lawyers' typical efforts to mediate between clients and the state rely less on advocacy and more on information control. This is a disturbing development; lawyers have brought to their new role as information guardians a powerful predisposition toward needless secrecy that suppresses and distorts information about many matters of public importance.
In a world that increasingly seeks transparency in government and business, the legal profession stands out for its frankly uncompromising commitment to opacity.  Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis's principle that "sunlight" is the "best of disinfectants" is a major influence on contemporary public policy nearly everywhere except in his own profession.
Lawyers can give clients something that other professionals, with the exception of doctors and priests, cannot: strong confidentiality rights. Although the legal system routinely requires accountants, bankers, and business consultants to disclose ostensibly private communications with their clients, attorney-client privilege protects most communication between lawyers and their clients from involuntary revelation.

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