Client Confidentiality Even Applies to Public Information

The California State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility & Conduct recently proposed an ethics opinion, Proposed Formal Op. 13-0005, available here http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/publicComment/2015/2015_13-0005DisclosurePublicyAvailableInformation.pdf, that should clear up something that many lawyers often fail to understand – a lawyer may never reveal embarrassing or detrimental secrets they learn about a client through representation even if the information doesn’t come from the client or is publicly available.

Some lawyers conflate attorney client privilege and client confidentiality, or believe that embarrassing or detrimental client information they learn through the representation of client, even if not from the client, is not covered under their duty of confidentiality if the information is available to the public. The proposed ethics opinion sends a clear message that both of these beliefs are wrong. The proposed ethics opinion also makes clear that the duty of confidentiality continues even after the client-lawyer relationship ends.

The California Bar is asking for comments on the proposed opinion through August 27, 2015, and follow this link to learn how to submit comments http://www.calbar.ca.gov/AboutUs/PublicComment/201511.aspx.

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