Attorney-Client Privilege for In-house Counsel

Haitao Zhang, Director Legal , CNPC America Ltd., Canada

A lawyer practicing in New York takes for granted claiming the attorney-client privilege no matter whether she/he works in a private law firm or a company, although there are so many traps to endanger this privilege (and it is especially true for an in house counsel to face all kinds of challenges to tackle the thorny issues arising from such a privilege). However if one thinks it is a universal norm for a lawyer to argue for an attorney-client privilege, she/he may soon find herself/himself in the trouble to identify such a privilege in a civil law country. Even worse, if she/he works as an in house counsel, she/he may not claim herself or himself to be a lawyer, even without mentioning to the privilege. It might be difficult to imagine being an US lawyer without such a privilege at all. Hence, it is so important for a lawyer to watch out and find a way to carefully preserve the privilege for his client to the extent it is possible. This article will first explore the general concept and limit of the attorney-client privilege especially in common law jurisdictions, and then focus on the varied considerations for such a privilege at corporate settings, and lastly will give some caveats about how to preserve the privilege.

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Canada Privilege Energy August 2018 Vol.11, No. 44, Summer 2018

Haitao Zhang


Haitao Zhang has been working for China national Petroleum Corporation (“CNPC”) for 18 years, and is the Director Legal for CNPC Latin America Branch, responsible for the legal & corporate matters in this region for CNPC, and leads directly/indirectly about 20 in-house counsels based in 6 countries. He is a registered attorney in New York and Alberta and a member of Beijing State-Owned Enterprise Counsel Association.

CNPC America Ltd.


China national Petroleum Corporation (“CNPC”) is an integrated international energy company. Based in China, CNPC has oil and gas assets and interests in more than 30 countries in Africa, Central Asia-Russia, America, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and other regions. CNPC is China's largest oil and gas producer and supplier, as well as one of the world's major oilfield service providers and a globally reputed contractor. CNPC Latin America Branch bases its main office at Caracas, Venezuela and has petroleum exploration and production business in six Latin America countries.

Canada Privilege Energy August 2018 Vol.11, No. 44, Summer 2018

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