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Complaints update: disclosing information

18 April 11

The Society has received counsel's opinion on disclosing privileged information during disciplinary investigations initiated by third parties

According to counsel’s opinion received by the Society, no privileged information should be disclosed during disciplinary investigations initiated by third parties without obtaining express written consent from the client.

The opinion advised that although the Society and Scottish Legal Complaints Commission can demand certain explanations and documents, this does not extend to confidential or privileged matters without a court order.

Mary McGowan, the Society’s Head of Regulation Liaison, has written to client relations partners with details of the opinion. She said: “I am aware from conversations with CRPs that the issue of how to respond to third party complaints is of paramount concern. On the one hand, they have a duty to maintain confidentiality and, on the other, a duty to answer complaints.

“CRPs should act with extreme caution to ensure any privileged information or documentation is not disclosed to the SLCC or others without the specific written consent of its owner, which is usually the client.”

Solicitors with any concerns should contact her at the Society, or the SLCC.

Meanwhile, the Client Care Committee has issued a reminder to the profession that the Society receives notification of convictions and administrative penalties against solicitors. The committee considers such convictions and, as has happened in a number of recent cases, can then submit a conduct complaint to the SLCC, which will decide whether it is eligible.

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