Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6 provides that, except in limited circumstances, lawyers “shall not reveal” a current client’s confidential information without “informed consent.” Rule 1.9(c)(2) similarly prohibits lawyers from disclosing a former client’s confidential information without authorization.
Many conflate the ethical rules of confidentiality with the mandates of the attorney–client privilege. Lawyers should know, however, that ethical confidentiality requirements are broader than the privilege—after all, the privilege applies to a client’s communications while the confidentiality rule applies to the client’s information.
But ethical rules banning unauthorized disclosure of client confidences certainly include privileged communications, as one Minnesota attorney unfortunately discovered after the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a sanction against him for doing just that—disclosing client communications to an adversary without consent. In re Charges of Unprofessional Conduct in Panel File No. 41310, 899 S.W.2d 821 (Minn. Aug. 2, 2017). You may read the opinion here.
Settlement Gone Awry
The Attorney represented his Client in seeking a pre-suit settlement with an insurance company for injuries sustained in a “motor vehicle accident,” otherwise known as a car wreck. The greedy Client wanted $50K, but the stubborn insurance adjuster would only offer $20K.