Q&As

When making a data subject access request to a law firm, is a client entitled to copies of the firm’s own internal communications relating to allegations of negligence by the client against the firm? Is the answer the same for a client complaint rather than an actual or potential claim?

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Produced in partnership with Peter Steel of Augury Consulting Limited
Published on LexisPSL on 03/01/2019

The following Practice Compliance Q&A produced in partnership with Peter Steel of Augury Consulting Limited provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • When making a data subject access request to a law firm, is a client entitled to copies of the firm’s own internal communications relating to allegations of negligence by the client against the firm? Is the answer the same for a client complaint rather than an actual or potential claim?

Personal data that is subject to a duty of client confidentiality or contained within communications that are considered to be legally privileged may be exempt from disclosure, but not all internal communications will necessarily be subject to legal professional privilege.

Individuals (including clients) have a right of access to personal data your firm holds, including:

  1. confirmation that you are processing their personal data

  2. a copy of their personal data, and

  3. other supplementary information, largely of the sort that would be contained in a privacy notice

Where the access request is ‘manifestly unfounded’ or excessive, you can charge a reasonable fee taking into account the cost of administration or alternatively refuse to respond. However, it would be up to you to prove that the request was manifestly unfounded—see Q&A: Refusing a data subject request—what is ‘manifestly unfounded or excessive’?

If the emails or memos contain personal data about the client, are not legally privileged or subject to any other exemption under the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018), then the client is still entitled to access.

DPA 2018 contains certain exemptions to the right of access, including on the grounds of legal privilege. This provision is set out at DPA 2018, Sch 2 Pt 4, para 19 and permits your firm not to provide fair processing information and any other information which is usually required to be disclosed under the

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