Keeping Legal Advice In-House: Protecting the Attorney-Client Privilege

Given that laboratories operate in a heavily regulated environment, the advice of legal counsel is integral to ensuring compliance with the many laws and regulations that govern the laboratory industry. Luckily the attorney-client privilege protects legal advice from disclosure to regulatory agencies, enforcement authorities, and opposing parties in litigation, including whistleblowers in False Claims Act (FCA) cases. This protection is crucial because it allows laboratories to seek legal guidance on potential compliance issues without fearing that their proactive efforts to comply with the law could later be used against them in a legal proceeding.

The privilege is the bedrock of open and honest communication between attorneys and their clients. It encourages full and frank communication “to protect not only the giving of professional advice to those who can act on it but also the giving of information to the lawyer to enable [them] to give sound and informed advice.” The privilege doctrine thus eliminates the possibility that these confidential communications must be disclosed (with some limited exceptions), which means that preservation of the privilege is important when requesting and receiving legal advice.

Originally published in G2 Intelligence’s monthly newsletter on May 20, 2014.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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