The Duty of Confidentiality Protects Even Publicly Available Information

The Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct of the California State Bar has issued an advisory opinion addressing the scope of a lawyer’s duty to refrain from disclosing potentially embarrassing or detrimental information about the client, including publicly available information the lawyer learned during the course of a representation or relating to the representation. See Ca. State Bar Standing Cmte. on Prof’l Resp. & Cond., Formal Op. Interim No. 13-005. The committee concluded the following:

  • A lawyer’s duty of confidentiality is broader than the attorney-client privilege, and any information learned during the representation “must be protected as a client secret even if the information is publicly available.”
  • A lawyer’s duty to keep client secrets survives the termination of the representation.
  • However, information learned otherwise that is unrelated to a prior representation may be disclosed by the lawyer.

This advice holds true in Louisiana. A Louisiana lawyer’s duty of confidentiality is significantly broader than many understand. Because Louisiana Rule 1.6 prohibits a lawyer from revealing “information relating to representation of a client,” it is not limited merely to matters communicated in confidence by the client. See also Model Rules of Prof’l Conduct Rule 1.6 cmt. 5 (2002). Thus, this rule prohibits disclosure of confidential information from any source, including from third parties and from documents prepared by third parties. When in doubt a lawyer should seek client consent to disclose the information in question.


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