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Suppose that:

  1. A client is in debt to an attorney for legal services.
  2. That attorney learns, in the necessary and proper course of representing the client, that the client is receiving some payments. Presumably this information is "privileged."

Can the attorney use that privileged information in an effort to collect on the client's legal services debt?

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Yes. The lawyer can use this information.

The privilege is a privilege against involuntary disclosure to third-parties. There is a parallel duty of confidentiality not to disclose information revealed to the lawyer to third parties.

But, the lawyer is not revealing the information to third-parties in a collection capacity. And, there are exceptions to both the privilege and to the duty of confidentiality that apply in the case of disputes between lawyers and clients.

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Presumably this information is "privileged."

Not necessarily. Different jurisdictions take slightly different approaches to Legal Professional Privilege but in general it relates to, and prevents the disclosure of, communications between a lawyer and the client that relate to litigation and/or legal advice. So unless the client provided the information to the lawyer for the specific purposes defined by the jurisdiction it probably isn't privileged and can be available to settle a genuine and payable debt.

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  • It's a good point. Communication between the lawyer and client are privileged; communication between the lawyer and anyone else are not privileged. Is it correct to say the lawyer's obligation is to represent the client in family court proceedings, but not necessarily to ensure the financial best interest of the client. – J. Win. Apr 7 at 20:51
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    I'm not sure the two are always mutually exclusive, but in any event a lawyer - just like everyone else in business - needs to earn a living and expects to be paid for their services. – Rock Ape Apr 7 at 21:35

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