Publication
17 January 2022

IBA statement in defense of the principle of lawyer-client confidentiality

Stéphane de Navacelle contributes to the International Bar Association statement in defense of the principle of lawyer-client confidentiality.

 

The International Bar Association (IBA) has released a statement in defense of lawyer-client confidentiality, following a number of recent attacks on the principle from high-profile international organisations. The statement, with forewords by the Rt Hon Lord David Neuberger, Former President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, and Judge Lars Bay Larsen, of the Court of Justice of the European Union, was compiled by a specially assembled IBA presidential taskforce that seeks to:

  • stress the importance of lawyer-client confidentiality in relation to the administration of justice, the independence of the legal profession, and the rule of law;
  • underscore the views of practising lawyers, leading judges, bar associations and law societies around the world regarding the fundamental necessity of lawyer-client confidentiality in a fair and democratic society;
  • highlight the vital role that the retention and protection of lawyer-client confidentiality plays in practice in the public’s perception of the legal profession and their own justice system; and
  • emphasise the risks of disproportionate international reaction to perceived abuse of lawyer-client confidentiality in the facilitation of financial crime.

International organisations, including the UN High Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (UN FACTI Panel) and the OECD Committee on Fiscal Affairs, have recently sought to undermine the principles of lawyer-client confidentiality and the independent regulation of the legal profession, arguing that these core values stand in the way of their efforts to stamp out financial crime.

In Ending the Shell Game: Cracking Down On the Professionals Who Enable Tax and White Collar Crimes (2021), the OECD Committee on Fiscal Affairs claim that ‘white collar crimes like tax evasion, bribery, and corruption are often concealed through complex legal structures and financial transactions.’ These crimes, they insist, are ‘facilitated by lawyers, accountants, financial institutions and other “professional enablers” of such crimes.’

The UN FACTI Panel have gone one step further, insisting that ‘lawyers and law firms often abuse their legal professional privilege […] to assist criminals in money-laundering and other criminal conduct’. The Panel added that ‘self-regulation’ of the legal profession ‘has proved to be insufficient and unreliable’ and called for governments to take ‘responsibility for setting the standards for appropriate conduct’.

The IBA Statement in Defense of the Principle of Lawyer-Client Confidentiality covers, in seven sections:

  • What is meant by lawyer-client confidentiality;
  • Why lawyer-client confidentiality exists;
  • How lawyer-client confidentiality works, including:
    • when, and under what circumstances, lawyers have an obligation to maintain lawyer-client confidentiality; and
    • under what circumstances lawyers do not have an obligation to maintain lawyer-client confidentiality;
  • The differences between common law and civil law jurisdictions with respect to their approach to lawyer-client confidentiality;
  • The exceptions in law and/or applicable rules of professional conduct;
  • How to strike a balance; and
  • The way forward.

The IBA is committed to protecting the principle of lawyer-client confidentiality, as demonstrated by the International Bar Association International Code of Ethics (1956), the IBA General Principles for the Legal Profession (2006) and the IBA International Principles on Conduct for the Legal Profession (2011). The IBA now plans to use the statement as a starting point to trigger a dialogue between the international legal profession and those entities that have called for damaging reforms to its core values and regulation.

Related content

Press review
21 June 2024
Press review – Week of 17 June 2024
This week, the press review covers the admissibility of the actions against Total and EDF relating to breaches of the...
Event
19 June 2024
Compliance and forensic investigations: optimising how companies, lawyers and forensic professionals work together
Grant Thornton France invited Stéphane de Navacelle to take part in a panel with Jean-Marie Pivard (Publicis Groupe), Jennifer Fiddian-Green...
2 min
Event
19 June 2024
Discussion on harassment prevention and exposure
Invited by Colas Rail, Stéphane de Navacelle discussed with 100+ group top managers during their Management Committee 2024, on 19 June 2024.
2 min
Press review
14 June 2024
Press review – Week of 10 June 2024
This week, the press review covers three people being charged for fraud in the Hauts-de-Seine, the dismantling of an undeclared...
Event
13 June 2024
Future prospects for International Anti-Corruption Court
A panel held during the 20th Annual IBA Anti-Corruption Conference hosted at the OECD in Paris.
Press review
7 June 2024
Press review – Week of 3 June 2024
This week, the press review covers the trial of several Île-de-France’s elected officials including concealment of misappropriation of corporate assets...
Press review
31 May 2024
Press review – Week of 27 May 2024
This week, the press review covers the conviction of a French senator for illegal taking of interest, the adoption of...
Press review
24 May 2024
Press review – Week of 20 May 2024
This week, the press review covers the fine imposed on bank company N26, the trial of EDF and its former...
Press review
17 May 2024
Press review – Week of 13 May 2024
This week, the press review covers the death of Renaud Van Ruymbeke, the conviction of former Mayor of Toulon for...
Video
16 May 2024
Anticorruption initiatives in Latin America: Lessons from the last decade (webinar)
To contribute to the Latin America and Caribbean Weeks event, organised by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs...
Publication
14 May 2024
LIR 6th Edition : Focus on ADP INGENIERIE and SEVES Group/SEDIVER CJIPs
Navacelle contributes to The Legal Industry Reviews' sixth edition, focusing on the last two CJIPs (kind of French DPAs) concluded....
Event
13 May 2024
Dassault Aviation – 1st Ethics Day
Dassault Aviation invited Stéphane de Navacelle to take part in its Ethics day, dedicated to anti-corruption programs and duty of...