These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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22-Interviews with Prospective Clients

31-Protecting and Disclosing Confidences and Secrets

A non-lawyer legal aid employee obtains general financial information from applicants to determine if they meet the pro bono standards. If a potential client is referred to one of a group of lawyers handling pro bono cases, the attorney-client relationship exists between the client and the lawyer to whom the client is referred. The "intake interview by non-lawyer staff personnel to determine a person's eligibility for legal aid services" (without the furnishing of any legal advice) does not create an attorney-client relationship with the legal aid office. However, identifying data about a potential legal aid office client is a secret which cannot be disclosed without the potential client's consent. Also, in most circumstances "an initial consultation with an attorney creates an expectation of confidentiality even where no attorney-client relationship arises in other respects." However, different rules apply to legal aid offices, because "a more stringent application of the rules and disqualification would result in decreased access to legal services for the indigent." The Bar recommends that the legal aid intake specialist should obtain a written informed consent at the intake interview in which the prospective client acknowledges "that the limited information given will not be treated as confidential for purposes of enabling the legal aid office to screen for conflicts or to make referrals."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn