Duty of Confidentiality

This module will explain what the duty of confidentiality entails. The training activities page contains exercises on the duty of confidentiality, which will allow you to apply what you learn about confidentiality to a fictionalized scenario. At the end of this training you should understand what the duty of confidentiality is, how to respect it, the exceptions to it, and how to apply this duty to your legal services work.

Duty of confidentiality

Under this duty, you are obligated to keep all information that you gather in the course of representing a client, particularly information that the client tells you, confidential. This duty applies from the moment the client walks into your office and begins to share sensitive information with you. It also applies equally to prospective, current, and former clients.

Right of the client

The client has the right to expect that you will keep his or her information private.

Duty of advisor

As the legal advisor, you cannot waive the client’s privilege of confidentiality without the client’s consent. You have a duty to protect your client’s information and to train your staff on the duty of confidentiality. You are also required to make sure that your staff is adhering to this duty.

Exceptions

There are certain specific circumstances in which it is acceptable to share some of the client’s information without his or her consent.

You may reveal general information about the client if:

  • You are engaged in confidential professional consultations such as getting advice from another legal aid provider on a specific case.
  • That information is already in the public domain and your client explicitly consents.

You may reveal minimal information about your client:

  • To prevent him or her from causing bodily harm to themselves or to others.
  • If a formal charge of an ethics breach has been filed against you and you need to disclose some information to defend yourself.
  • If all identifying details have been removed.