Transparency | “no one is surprised when a law firm is burgled and all their clients’ personal data is publicly exposed”

Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) in its newsletter of May 2016 places burglary for “the good cause” prominently on the first page:

Editorial: transparency and professional secrecy

In this day and age, one would like for transparency to be a virtue and for professional secrecy to serve to hide all sorts of ailments and harmful actions. Transparency is a requirement on social networks, directly contradicting personal privacy. Transparency is imposed by states, who want to know everything about our lives, both private and public. There is an attempt to impose such transparency on both the state and its agents in order to control any kind of decisions and behaviours. Transparency has abolished the right to privacy.

This desire for transparency is such that no one is surprised when a law firm is burgled and all their clients’ personal data is publicly exposed. No one is offended when lawyers’ conversations are wire-tapped and their conversations with clients transcribed and published. No one reacts when law firms are regularly searched and their data disclosed.

However, professional secrecy is part of the ‘proper administration of justice’, meeting the need of a person to be able confide in another, i.e. their lawyer, without fear of being betrayed or denounced. This is called the Rule of Law. Justice and the Rule of Law are two of the cornerstones of a democratic society. There have been other times when transparency was combined with denunciation, imprisonment or worse. This was the mark of an authoritarian state.

The purpose of professional secrecy is not to hide illegal activities. Should a lawyer advise or assist a client in illegal activity, knowing it to be illegal, then the lawyer would be subject to criminal and disciplinary sanctions. Lawyers act in the interests of their clients, in accordance with the law and rules in force in any given country. Our clients therefore have the right to benefit from such protected professional secrecy, as does society.


Over Ellen Timmer, advocaat ondernemingsrecht @Pellicaan

Verbonden aan Pellicaan Advocaten,, kantoor Rotterdam, telefoon 088-6272287, fax 088-6272280, e-mail ||| Weblogs: algemeen: || modernisering ondernemingsrecht: ||| Motto: goede bedoelingen rechtvaardigen geen slechte regels
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