You bet they are!!! When you consult with an attorney, you can count on your information remaining private.
Nothing discussed should be taken as legal advice. Posting details of your case on an open forum could be used against you, so use extreme caution. The best way to get legal advice is to consult privately with an attorney.
Yes, they are covered under privilege, unless the client signs a waiver discharging the privilege.
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Absolutely - the fact that a person has not paid the lawyer anything does not mean that the conversation is anything but confidential as though you had been a paying client.
But that means all the regular things must apply - the conversation must have been relating to the attorney-client relationship, the conversation must have been had in a confidential setting, etc.
If your next-door neighbor is a lawyer and you see him at the store and loudly say "Hey Jim - I bought some cocaine this weekend - want to buy some?", this will not be a confidential communication.