You may have heard that everything you tell your lawyer is protected by solicitor-client privilege. What does that really mean?
As lawyers we follow a professional code of conduct to safeguard our clients’ interests. The code of conduct includes rules about confidentiality. These ‘solicitor-client privilege’ rules are far-reaching. Except in very limited circumstances:
- we hold in strict confidence and safeguard all information provided by our clients, regardless of the nature or source of the information or of the fact that others may share the information;
- we will not disclose the fact of having been consulted or hired by our clients (not even to our spouses!);
- we preserve our clients’ secrets even after the lawyer-client relationship has ended;
- we will not use confidential information provided by a client for the benefit of anyone else, or to the disadvantage of the client; and
- we will not gossip about a client’s affairs.
We may only disclose confidential information if required to do so by law, by a court order, or if disclosure is necessary to prevent a crime involving death or serious bodily harm to someone. The instances where we must make such disclosure are rare indeed. Solicitor-client privilege ensures that our clients can make full disclosure to us and thus receive the best possible legal advice without worrying that the information discussed will become public.