Queensland Law Society

Duty of Confidentiality – Lawyer X

Ms Gobbo was interviewed on the 7.30 Report concerning matters relating to her past conduct. The reporting appeared to suggest that a lawyer may be entitled to disclose certain lawyer client communications, when such communications are not covered by legal professional privilege. Practitioners are reminded that the obligation of confidence is far-reaching and nearly absolute. The only exceptions to confidentiality are found in Rule 9 and certain other limited rules of the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules 2012. A client may communicate to a solicitor information not related to the retainer in the reasonable expectation that such information is provided in confidence. The communication is confidential as it is protected by the implied contractual duty of confidence, in equity or by our professional rules. The relationship between a solicitor and client is one of trust and confidence. Client legal privilege and confidentiality are different. Client legal privilege is, more limited, than the broad ethical duty of retaining the confidence of a client communication. A lawyer would need to consider the exceptions to the rule as to confidentiality before making disclosure to third parties. Practitioners are also referred to AB & EF v CD [2017] VSC 350, [118]-[125].

Stafford Shepherd
Legal Practitioner Director, QLS Solicitor Support (QLS Ethics and Practice Centre)
13 December 2019