For the record: Solicitor-client privilege benefits all of us

At some time in your life, you or a loved one will need a lawyer.

When you do, you can speak to that lawyer confidentially, knowing that whatever information you share — whatever you discuss in person or in writing with your lawyer in order for you to get legal help — cannot be shared with anyone else, and no one can make your lawyer disclose it without your consent. This promise of confidentiality is called solicitor-client privilege.

Solicitor-client privilege is for the elderly person who wants to make end-of-life decisions independently and without the worry of upsetting his or her family. It is for the woman who needs a lawyer's help to safely and legally get out of an abusive relationship without her husband knowing. It is for the employee in a toxic workplace who wants to learn about his or her legal rights. It is for the police officer under investigation who needs to be able to speak freely with a lawyer about his or her legal defence, knowing that whatever is said will not and cannot be disclosed to the investigator or the prosecutor.

It is for everyone to feel safe knowing that their discussions with their lawyer are private and cannot be disclosed to anyone without their express permission.

This is the law — and it is one of your constitutional rights and protections.

Solicitor-client privileged communications are out of reach of third parties. No third party, including the police, can make your lawyer disclose these privileged communications to them.

There are some secrets that can be taken to grave, and a privileged conversation between a client and his or her lawyer is one of them.

Your lawyer has a legal and professional duty to protect, and not to disclose, solicitor-client privileged information or confidential communication and other information belonging to you.

This is also the law. This also protects you.

Not many people know that the Law Society also has this legal and professional duty, just the same as a lawyer has.

When the Law Society investigates a lawyer, it has the legal authority to access — to look at — solicitor-client privileged and confidential communications and information belonging to clients like you. But it's important to remember that this authority is carried out with the same strict legal statutory duty to protect your information from others — including even the police.

This, too, is the law.

If you have been harmed by a lawyer, you may choose to sue that lawyer, or you may decide to report his or her conduct to the police. You may decide to do both.

You may also choose to report the lawyer's conduct to the Law Society for possible regulatory investigations and discipline. If you do, you can rest assured that your solicitor-client privileged and confidential communication and information will be protected by the Law Society in the same way that your own lawyer is duty-bound to protect it.