Only communications and advice from lawyers are protected from disclosure

Date: 28/02/13 Author: Ian Gee

Only communications and advice from lawyers are protected from disclosure

When you consult a Solicitor, your communications and the advice you receive are covered by "legal professional privilege". This means that all your communications are confidential and protected from disclosure - even to official bodies like HM Revenue & Customs ("HMRC").

However, this protection relating to legal advice is uniquely available when consulting qualified lawyers, i.e. solicitors and barristers. It does not extend to advice given by other professions such as accountants or claims companies, even where that advice is legal advice which that professional person is qualified to give.

This principle was reaffirmed in a recent landmark ruling in the Supreme Court involving the Prudential and HMRC. The Prudential argued that accountants should be able to offer clients the same legal protection from disclosure as lawyers when advising on tax law.

The court rejected this argument saying that extending legal privilege to other professions would carry an unacceptable risk of uncertainty. It was unclear whether certain occupations would be regarded  as professions, and unclear how a court was to decide whether a profession was one which ordinarily included giving legal advice.

The move was welcomed by the chief executive of the Law Society. Desmond Hudson said : "A lawyer's duties and responsibilities to the client and to the courts are not available on a Pick 'n' Mix basis. The relationship between a solicitor or barrister and his or her client is a precious human right, tested and refined by centuries of common law."

So, the significant implications of fixing this boundary are that there might be adverse consequences to the prospects of success of a case if communications  with non-lawyer advisers can be used by the other parties.

For further information, please contact Ian Gee on 01524 598304 or

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