Lawyers receiving civil orders for disclosure must protect privilege

There may be times in which a party to a civil action obtains an order to compel the production of documents from an employee of a law firm.

Earlier this year the Law Society learned of a civil order that compelled a law firm to disclose the contents of the computer hard-drive of one of the firm’s employees. The purpose of the order was to gain access to personal emails that allegedly were relevant to litigation involving the employee (but not the firm or clients of the firm).

Counsel who seek to obtain or who receive such orders must remember that there are professional obligations to protect the privilege and confidentiality of client information.

A lawyer who finds it is necessary to apply for such an order, should address the need to preserve solicitor-client privilege and confidentiality at all times. A lawyer who receives such an order should satisfy him or herself that the order contains provisions to maintain the privilege and confidentiality of client material and, if it does not, should bring the matter back to the court for directions.