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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14-Ownership of Files and Attorney Lien Issues

31-Protecting and Disclosing Confidences and Secrets

Because a lawyer's duty to maintain confidences and secrets survives the client's death, a lawyer may not provide a former client's historically significant files to a university without either obtaining the client's consent or determining that the files contain no confidences or secrets; a lawyer may give limited information to an outside agency if it is necessary for the lawyer to perform the lawyer's job, but the lawyer must be careful in selecting the agency and instruct the agency that the information must be kept confidential; information is no longer confidential once it becomes a matter of public record unless it is a "secret"; "an implied (though not formal) attorney-client relationship can arise whenever a lawyer receives confidences or secrets from a person who had an expectation of confidentiality even if no representation resulted."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn