You are here: Home Law Topics Litigation Lawyer China Attorney Client Relationship

China Lawyer Blog - We answer your questions

China Attorney Client Relationship

The attorney client relationship is a formally recognized legal relationship that enjoys special protection under the law. An attorney, along with a doctor, spouse and priest, are one of the few people who cannot be obligated to testify or reveal information when that information would incriminate another. An attorney also has certain special obligations to a client, and an attorney's failure to fulfill those obligations can result in penalties including monetary fines, a malpractice verdict, and/or loss of the attorney's license to practice law.

When Is An Attorney/Client Relationship Formed

An attorney client relationship is formed when a client has reason to believe that the attorney is representing their legal interests. This "reason" can be express or implied. An attorney client relationship can obviously be formed when a client pays a retainer and/or signs a contract with an attorney that the attorney will represent them. An attorney client relationship can also be formed under more informal circumstances. If a client comes into an attorney's office and reveals privileged or confidential information about his or her case, an attorney client relationship may be formed. If an attorney makes a phone call on a client's behalf, an attorney client relationship may be formed. If a person asks for legal advice at a dinner party and the attorney gives that advice, an attorney client relationship may be formed.

The key question in determining whether an attorney client relationship exists is whether the client reasonably believes the attorney is representing his interests and/or providing him with legal guidance. The client need not pay the attorney any fees, the attorney need not spend extensive time with the client, and the client need not formally employ the attorney. If the client comes to the attorney for legal advice, manifests that desire for representation, and believes he is getting legal advice from the attorney, an attorney client relationship exists.

Implications of an Attorney Client Relationship

There are a number of implications associated with forming an attorney client relationship. First, attorneys owe a fiduciary duty to their clients. This means they must act with the utmost responsibility and care and not compromise their client's interests. If an attorney does not behave in a reasonably responsible and prudent manner towards his clients, and/or the attorney's behavior falls short of the behavior one would expect from a reasonably competent attorney, the client can sue the attorney for malpractice.

An attorney also cannot represent another client if there is a conflict of interest with an existing or former client. This means that once an attorney client relationship has been formed, the attorney must turn down any work that would conflict with his duty to be a 100% advocate for his existing client. The attorney also cannot take a case that is substantially the same as a case he worked on for a former client, even if he is no longer representing that former client.

Finally, an attorney client relationship is a privileged relationship. Almost anything a client tells an attorney in confidence cannot be repeated. There are a few limited exceptions to this rule, such as if the client tells the attorney of his intent to do impending harm and the attorney reasonably believes the client will carry out these harmful actions. However, outside of the limited exceptions, a client can tell an attorney anything, up-to-and-including the location of a buried body, and the attorney is under an obligation to keep that information confidential. This privilege exists unless there is a third party present when the client speaks to their attorney, or unless the client waives the attorney client privilege.

However, please note that China law define attorney client relationship narrowly than the U.S.. In some circumstance, the attorney client relationship maybe broken compulsorily by national law. Please contact our Shijiazhuang lawyer, Quanzhou lawyer, Changchun lawyer, Nantong lawyer, Weifang lawyer, Xian lawyer and they will explain more.

  • Goal

  • Fees

The law blog is running by a China lawyer working for a full-service law firm, offering practical, results-driven advice on employment law, divorce, company law, and other legal issues. Our goal is to manage these issues effectively so that our clients can focus on what they could do best.

China Lawyer Blog will charge you under your specific circumstances in the following styles:
(1) Hourly fee arrangements
(2) Contingency fee arrangements
(3) Flat fee arrangements
(4) Percentage fee arrangements

Learn More...


China Lawyer Blog China Lawyer Society

China Lawyer

I am a licensed China lawyer. Most clients are foreign nationals and companies. China Lawyer Blog have associates in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Fuzhou, Hainan, Hefei, Wuhan, Xian, Changsha, Xiamen and Hangzhou. Learn More

Latest Comments

Style of Service

This China Lawyer Blog is aiming at providing better knowledge and understanding of Chinese law for foreigners. Should you have any legal issue in China, do not hesitate to contact China Lawyer Blog for consultation. Preliminary consultation is free. Further legal service, however, will be charged in due rate and in due course.

You are welcomed to ask for a quotation pursuant to your specific circumstance.

About author

China Lawyer BLog AuthorPeter Zhu, an experienced China attorney licensed to practice law for more than ten years, the author of this China Lawyer blog, welcomes any enquiry or consultation related to Chinese law.