Confidentiality is one of most important duties of those working in the legal profession. Most people have heard of confidentiality, whether from direct experience or through TV, but what many people fail to understand is that confidentiality isn’t actually all encompassing; there are limitations.
One of the biggest limitations of confidentiality is that, while a lawyer isn’t allowed to betray their client’s privacy, if that client then goes onto lie under oath about something that they’ve told their lawyer, their lawyer then has an ethic duty resign from the case.
Confidentiality is relevant to a lot of different professions, but the overriding theme is that the right is not to the lawyer, but to the client. The client retains the right to, at any time, waive that right to confidentiality, but otherwise a lawyer has no right to do so. The only instance in which a lawyer can reveal details which come under the spectre of confidentiality is when it is in the public interest, and in that case only when it has been ordered by law.
Another thing worth bearing in mind is that confidentiality is only applicable when a qualified lawyer has been paid for their services. If they’ve not been paid fully, a lawyer can choose to disclose elements of the case they were involved in, as there has been no payment to insure confidentiality. Likewise, if a client undertakes legal proceedings against their lawyer, they are effectively waiving any right they had to confidentiality.
Even when lawyers have a reason to confer confidential information about a client or ex-client, most will try their best to avoid this situation. This is because there are few things which a lawyer’s reputation relies upon as heavily as the right to confidentiality, and if they betray their client or ex-client in a serious manner, they could well see their reputation destroyed.