Many clients have often been surprised to learn that the attorney client privilege in Pennsylvania did not necessarily apply to advice their attorney's gave them. Previously, the Pennsylvania Superior Court had held that only communications made from the client to the lawyer were privileged, not those flowing from the attorney to the client. That holding, which is in conflict with the approach taken by most other states, was recently overturn on February 23, 2011 by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held that the attorney client privilege now operates to protect confidential client to attorney and attorney to client communications made for the purpose of obtaining or providing legal advice. This decision is extremely important to both Pennsylvania lawyers and clients alike because it allows for a much more open flow of information between client's and their attorney advisors.
The benefits afforded to clients as a result of this broader interpretation of the Pennsylvania privilege statute is that counsel may now, for example, proactively advise clients about a compliance issue without the attendant privilege concern that existed under prior law. Attorneys will be able to guide their clients through the process of curing ongoing legal problems without the fear that their advice could be discoverable in court. Not only will this benefit the client, as it will certainly facilitate a more open dialogue, but the benefits will also hopefully trickle down to benefit society as a whole.