Informal Opinion Number: 2015-09

Rules: 4-1.6; 4-1.4; 4-1.9
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Confidentiality of Information
Subject: Confidentiality
Summary: public financial disclosure; name of client and fees confidential

Question: May Attorney, a federal officer or employee, disclose client names on a public financial disclosure form which requires Attorney to list payments to Attorney exceeding a particular sum, and the names of those making the payments, in the two years prior to Attorney’s appointment as a federal officer or employee, where the information would include the names of clients and information about clients’ legal fees?
Answer: The name of a client, and the fact that the client’s legal fee exceeds a particular sum, are confidential under Rule 4-1.6 as information related to the representation.  Attorney may not disclose the information without the client’s informed consent or if Attorney is complying with “other law or a court order.” Rule 4-1.6(b)(4).  Whether other law requires disclosure and whether it supersedes Rule 4-1.6 are matters of law outside the scope of the Rules of Professional Conduct, as explained in Comment [10].  If other law appears to require disclosure, Attorney must discuss the matter with the client to the extent required by Rule 4-1.4.  If a court, other tribunal, or governmental body claiming authority pursuant to other law orders disclosure, Attorney must assert on behalf of the client all nonfrivolous claims that the order is not authorized by law or that other applicable law protects the information.  Rule 4-1.6, Comment [12].  If other law does authorize disclosure, the disclosure may only be made to the extent reasonable necessary to comply with the applicable law.  The duty of confidentiality continues after the client-lawyer relationship has ended.  Comment [17], citing Rule 4-1.9(c).

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

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