The attorney-client privilege is one of the oldest and most respected privileges.
It was designed to prevent a lawyer from being compelled to testify against his/her
The purpose underlying this privilege is to ensure that clients receive accurate and
competent legal advice by encouraging full disclosure to their lawyer without fear
that the information will be revealed to others. The privilege covers written and
oral communications and protects both individual and institutional clients. The privilege
extends from the attorneys hired to represent the University to include legal office
staff that facilitates communications to and from the attorneys.
The attorney-client privilege does not apply to every communication with an attorney.
For the privilege to exist, the communication must be to, from, or with an attorney,
and intended to be confidential. In addition, the communication must be for the purpose
of requesting or receiving legal advice. For example, an email or memorandum from
one administrator to another concerning a legal matter typically is not privileged
because such email is not sent to or from an attorney for the purpose of obtaining
Florida Sunshine Law Limitations on Attorney-Client Privilege
Written CommunicationsToggle More Info
As Florida Gulf Coast University Board of Trustees is a public body corporate of the
State of Florida, its right to attorney-client privilege with respect to written communications
is more limited than the rights of private organizations or individuals because of
Florida's Public Records Law, Chapter 119, Florida Statutes. Generally, the only written
communications between University counsel and client that are confidential are communications
falling within the "attorney work product exemption." Communications fitting this
exemption are those records that are prepared by an agency attorney or at the agency
attorney's express direction, that are prepared in anticipation of imminent civil
or administrative litigation or proceedings and that reflect a mental impression,
conclusion, litigation strategy, or legal theory of the attorney or the University.
At the conclusion of the litigation and any appeals, the attorney work product records
lose their confidentiality and become public records.
Records relating to insurance and tort claims generally are also confidential and
exempt from disclosure.
Because there is no blanket attorney-client written communication privilege for public
entities in Florida, University counsel oftentimes must confer with a client and render
advice orally in many instances to avoid sensitive written communications possibly
being subject to public disclosure.
Oral CommunicationsToggle More Info
Oral communications between the General Counsel and individual trustees, administrators,
staff or faculty, are privileged when the criteria mentioned above under "Overview"
are met. Due to Florida's Sunshine Law, section 286.011, Florida Statutes, most communications
between the Board of Trustees and the General Counsel during a meeting of the Board
are not privileged. However, the Board may meet privately with the General Counsel
and the President to discuss the matters of litigation as they relate to strategy
and settlement, as well as matters addressing collective bargaining.
Communications must be kept confidential for the privilege to apply. If the substance
of attorney-client communications is disclosed to persons outside the University -
or even to persons within the University who are not directly involved in the matter
- the privilege may be extinguished. Your communications with attorneys in the General
Counsel's Office or outside counsel representing FGCU should never be discussed with
anyone outside FGCU, including family members or friends; within the University such
communications should be discussed only with persons who have responsibility for the
With respect to email communications, clients should take care before forwarding advice
to another party because such action may waive the privilege. Generally, conveying
legal advice to persons who are directly involved with a decision on behalf of the
University will not void the privilege. Disclosure of significant legal advice to
persons without such a need to know should be made only after consultation with General
Counsel and other appropriate University administrators.
Since the General Counsel's Office is dedicated to the University as a whole, communications
by individual employees to the General Counsel may be disclosed to other administrators
or to outside counsel retained to represent or advise the University on a "need to
If you have questions about the attorney-client privilege in your work with FGCU,
please call the General Counsel.
In requesting or receiving legal advice concerning University business, be assured
that the General Counsel and staff will preserve the privileged nature of all communications.
Other specific situations that are not covered by the Attorney-Client Privilege are:
The Fact of a ConsultationToggle More Info
The attorney-client privilege does not extend to the fact that a consultation between
attorney and client occurred, or to the general subject matter of the consultation.
It protects only the content of the communications during that consultation. For example,
the privilege would not protect the fact that a vice president met with the General
Counsel to discuss the development of a particular University contract, but the privilege
would protect the discussions between the two persons such as the advice sought or
Lawyer in the RoomToggle More Info
Sometimes a lawyer is called upon to participate in activities that do not necessarily
call for specific legal advice or representation. In those contexts, the attorney-client
privilege does not apply. All conversation at a meeting with legal counsel in attendance,
for example, is not protected just because a lawyer is in the room. Moreover, where
the lawyer is called upon to play a different role (e.g., investigator) and is not
acting as a lawyer, the privilege may not apply.
Underlying Facts Shared with an AttorneyToggle More Info
The attorney-client privilege protects the content of communications between the client
and attorney. However, it does not extend to underlying factual information that the
client shared with the attorney during the course of the communication.
Documents Given to an AttorneyToggle More Info
Documents do not automatically become privileged simply because they are given to
or reviewed by an attorney. Correspondence, which is forwarded to an attorney for
a purpose other than obtaining legal advice, is never privileged. As mentioned above,
the attorney-client privilege applies in limited circumstances to the written documents
of public entities in the State of Florida.
Correspondence with Copies to an AttorneyToggle More Info
General correspondence does not become privileged because an attorney is listed among
those receiving a copy or "blind" copy. However, if the author is attempting to convey
the content of an attorney's advice to others in the organization with a legitimate
need to know, the correspondence is privileged as long as the document falls within
the scope of protected written communications described above.
Communication in the Presence of a Third PartyToggle More Info
The privilege extends only to communications that the client intends to be confidential.
Communications made in non-private settings, or in the presence of third persons unnecessary
to accomplish the purpose for which the attorney was consulted, are not confidential
and therefore are not protected by the privilege.