Hill House Chambers takes client confidentiality very seriously and protecting our clients’ confidentiality is a priority for us at all times.
1. This policy is intended to act as guidance to barristers, clerks and administrative staff when members of Chambers are instructed on behalf of different parties in the same case or where a member of Chambers is instructed to act as a mediator, arbitrator etc. in a case involving one or more other members of Chambers. It is recognised that there is a need to take particular care to safeguard client confidentiality in these circumstances.
2. The policy has been introduced to assist members of Chambers to comply with their core professional duty to keep the affairs of each client confidential (Core Duty 6 of the BSB Handbook) and with Rule C89.5 of the BSB Handbook which requires Chambers and its members to take reasonable steps to ensure that proper arrangements are in place for the management of conflicts of interest and for ensuring the confidentiality of clients’ affairs.
3. This policy is designed to cover both cases where a member of Chambers has been instructed by a solicitor on behalf of a lay client and where a member of Chambers has been instructed by a lay client directly under the Public Access scheme.
Informing Instructing Solicitors & Public Access Clients
4. In some instances a party will not want the fact that they have taken legal advice or instructed Counsel to be known. The clerks and the barrister in question will preserve this client confidentiality. In these circumstances, the barrister must ensure that his/her clerk is aware of the fact and must inform his/her clerk when the position changes.
5. In any event, as soon as practicable, both barristers should be told of each other’s involvement in a case. Once both barristers have been informed, their instructing solicitors or Public Access clients (via their intermediary, if appropriate) will be informed of the involvement of counsel in the same chambers. The instructing solicitors/Public Access clients should be informed that this is Chambers’ usual practice in such circumstances, to enable a client to decide if he/she wishes to continue to instruct the barrister in question.
6. Members of Chambers and clerks should consider whether any variation of Chambers’ usual practice is necessary in the particular circumstances of a case.
7. Chambers will usually provide separate clerking in cases where members appear against each other. Instructing solicitors/Public Access clients (via their intermediary, if appropriate) will be informed of this so that they can deal with the relevant clerk. A note will be added to the case on Chambers’ diary management system to ensure that clerks and staff are aware which clerk has been appointed to deal with each party. This will appear as a memo which automatically pops up when the case is accessed.
8. When necessary, in order to maintain client confidentiality, telephone calls will be taken away from the clerks’ room.
9. Chambers has an electronic diary system. Members of Chambers do not have access to each other’s diaries on the system and do not receive a daily diary page for other members.
10. As is normal practice, Chambers will take care to ensure that documents are kept confidential to the barrister instructed on the case.
11. It is recognised, however, that a client may wish additional measures to be taken to ensure confidentiality in a case where members of Chambers are appearing against one another. The instructing solicitors or Public Access clients (via their intermediary, if appropriate) should therefore be asked if they wish to use a code name for the case in order to remove any indication on the outside of papers as to what matter they relate.
12. Clerks must ensure that papers are placed directly in the relevant barrister’s room, alternatively in their pigeon-hole in a sealed envelope, to avoid accidental observation of their contents by opposing Counsel.
13. All barristers similarly should ensure strict control over papers relating to the case to avoid accidental observation by opposing Counsel. If members share a room with opposing Counsel, they are responsible for ensuring that all papers pertaining to that care are kept strictly secured.
14. Members of chambers will consider whether any variation of his/her usual working arrangements is necessary to safeguard confidentiality in the particular circumstances of a case, for example by working on the case away from their usual place of work within chambers or by making telephone calls from a different part of chambers to avoid being overheard.
15. Where particularly sensitive documents are to be delivered to Chambers, the clerks can make arrangements with instructing solicitors or Public Access clients to ensure security.
16. Chambers uses the services of a secure recycling shredding company for the disposal of confidential material. Chambers itself will also shred confidential documents if it is thought appropriate to do so.
17. The clerks will be happy to discuss other security measures tailored to specific client needs and concerns where requested.
18. Every member of Chambers has their own individual e-mail address and account. Individual e-mail accounts are not available for inspection by other members. All computers and the Chambers network system are individually password protected.
19. Emails received in relation to a case involving more than one member of Chambers are not to be left open when barristers or clerks are away from their desks.
20. The clerks will be happy to discuss options for encryption of e-mails where required.
21. Members of Chambers appearing on opposite sides in a case will not discuss the matter with each other, unless instructed to do so.
22. Members of Chambers will exercise discretion in discussing the matter with any other member of Chambers, clerks or staff, and will maintain client confidentiality in the course of any such discussions.