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Duty of confidentiality and its limits

Confidentialité pour un avocat

When a lawyer works with clients, the duty of confidentiality is considered the norm. Most clients assume that confidentiality is a given, but they may not be aware of what exactly it entails.

This lack of knowledge can cause the client to have doubts and questions, like, “Do I have to hand over all the requested documents to my lawyer if I am the victim of a workplace accident?” The answer is yes, and we will go through why it’s important in this article.

Me Bégin will explain everything you need to know if you are looking to hire a lawyer in Quebec. It is essential to understand the duty of confidentiality and what it means for both you and your lawyer.

What is the duty of confidentiality?

Lawyers are bound to respect the duty of confidentiality. In general, this means that a lawyer cannot disclose personal information provided by a client because the lawyer must protect the client’s interests. Keeping this information private is necessary to maintain a relationship of trust with the client.

Confidentiality is intended to give lawyers access to all pertinent documents and information so that they can defend their clients to the best of their ability.

Confidential information can include in-person conversations, letters, emails or video calls. Protecting this information ensures that the client can provide their lawyer with all the information necessary for the lawyer to do their job properly. 

Lawyer confidentiality in Quebec: key concepts

The duty of confidentiality is governed by the Code of Professional Conduct of Lawyers. These regulations are frequently updated.

You should keep in mind these key concepts:

Professional secrecy exists to protect the client. The lawyer is required to handle sensitive information in a way that best serves the client’s interests.

Another important point is that the client must authorize their lawyer to handle documents, disclose or communicate information. Using information without authorization is a violation of client confidentiality. As in any professional-client relationship, it is the client who sets the guidelines.

Finally, the duty of confidentiality does not have a time limit. Lawyers are bound to maintain confidentiality even after services have been rendered. Again, this should give the client greater confidence in the lawyer.

The limits of confidentiality

What are the criteria for the duty of confidentiality?

For information to be protected, it must meet certain criteria:

  • You must be in contact with a lawyer who is a member of the Barreau du Québec (Quebec Bar). Make sure that the lawyer has not been disbarred or otherwise falsely posing as a lawyer.
  • Communications must be confidential. The mere presence of a third party who does not have a common interest with the client may cause privilege to be waived.
  • Communications must be made while the client is seeking legal advice. For example, there is no solicitor-client privilege in a public place such as a café or restaurant.


Can the lawyer ever disclose confidential information?

Though the duty of confidentiality is considered a fundamental right, there are instances where it can be breached. However, these situations are rare. The duty of confidentiality does not apply when:

  • There is a risk of crime or overt fraud: a lawyer can breach their duty if they know that their client is going to commit a crime that harms a third party. This is especially important in cases of homicide, domestic violence, or child abuse.
  • A person’s innocence is at stake: the disclosure must be absolutely necessary. The lawyer will have to show that it was impossible to obtain the information otherwise.

Me Bégin: a lawyer you can trust

As you can see, trust is incredibly important when choosing the right lawyer. Me Bégin has helped hundreds of victims seek justice in Quebec since 1992. It’s our calling. We maintain the highest standards of professional secrecy in order to best serve the interests of our clients.

Are you the victim of an unfavourable ruling by IVACC, CNESST, SAAQ or Retraite Québec? Contact our firm today. Our years of experience and expertise have shown us that there is a solution to every problem.

Contact Bégin Avocat by phone at (514) 509 – 7852 or by filling out the contact form below.

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