A joint defense agreement allows communications, work product and documents to be shared confidentially between multiple parties and their attorneys in an investigation, or an initiated civil lawsuit or pending criminal charge.  Joint defense agreements can be either written or oral.  However, it always preferred as soon as practicable to formalize an oral joint defense agreement in writing so there is no confusion as to the parameters of the agreement.  The joint defense agreement should be signed by all parties and their respective attorneys.  The downside of a signed joint defense agreement is that the document, in whole or in part, may be subject to disclosure during a litigation.