Safeguards and information barriers
Safeguards and information barriers

The following Practice Compliance practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Safeguards and information barriers
  • The duties of confidentiality and disclosure—SRA requirements
  • Case law
  • The burden of proof
  • The Bolkiah principles
  • Inadequate information barriers—historic cases
  • Bolkiah v KPMG (1998)
  • Re a firm of solicitors (1992)
  • Marks and Spencer v Freshfields (2004)
  • Re Z (2009)
  • More...

Protection of confidential information is fundamental to your relationship with clients, both as a matter of law and as a matter of conduct. This duty continues despite the end of the retainer and even after the death of the client and can apply to prospective as well as current and former clients.

There are four key issues that are relevant when considering whether you can act in a confidentiality situation:

  1. what is material confidential information?

  2. what is an adverse interest?

  3. what is informed consent?

  4. what does the common law say about effective safeguards including information barriers?

This Practice Note discusses safeguards and information barriers. For guidance on the other issues, see Practice Notes: Material confidential information and adverse interests and Informed consent—law firm confidentiality.

The duties of confidentiality and disclosure—SRA requirements

You must keep the affairs of clients confidential unless:

  1. disclosure is required or permitted by law, or

  2. the client consents

For more guidance on the general duty of confidentiality and the relationship between confidentiality and client conflict under the SRA Standards and Regulations 2019, in force from 25 November 2019, see Practice Notes: Duties of confidentiality and disclosure 2019 and Duties of confidentiality and disclosure—SRA 2011 regime and SRA 2019 regime compared.

Any individual who is acting for a client must also make the client aware of all information material to the matter of which the individual has knowledge (unless

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