The short answer to that question is generally, yes.
A lawyer’s duty of confidence to their client arises from contract, equity and professional conduct rules.
Your lawyer must not disclose confidential information acquired during their engagement with you to any other person, other than those of their law practice or to barristers they engage to work on your behalf, without your consent.
However, there are exceptions to this general rule. Your lawyer may disclose your confidential information if:
- They need to engage others in the course of providing you with legal services (for example barristers and experts);
- They are permitted or compelled to do so by law (for example the statutory requirement to report significant cash transactions of $10,000 or more under section 15A of the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988 (Cth));
- They do so in a confidential setting and for the sole purpose of obtaining advice in connection with their own legal or ethical obligations;
- They do so for the sole purpose of avoiding the probable commission of a serious criminal offence;
- Disclosure of your confidential information is needed to prevent imminent serious physical harm to you or to another person; or
- The circumstances necessitate disclosure of your confidential information to their insurer.
What about documents and other written communications?
Documents and other written communications (including drafts), in so far as they relate to the provision of legal advice, are protected under Legal Professional Privilege.
This means that, without your consent, your lawyer cannot disclose those documents or communications to another party besides those that have been engaged to work on your matter. Legal Professional Privilege also protects such information from being subpoenaed or consequently used as evidence in legal proceedings.
The scope of Legal Professional Privilege can extend beyond just documents and written communications between you and your lawyer. In some circumstances, documents and written communications between either yourself or your lawyer and an associated person or entity may also be protected insofar as they pertain to providing you with legal advice.
But beware, Legal Professional Privilege can be lost in certain situations such as publicly speaking about the documents or even accidentally leaving them in a public place! It also cannot be relied on to facilitate illegal activities or for improper purposes.
If you are looking to speak to a solicitor about your legal matter or if you are concerned about confidentiality or Legal Professional Privilege, book in to see one of our solicitors at Hume Taylor & Co. by calling 8223 3199.