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.