Bar Council lobbies for wider privilege in bill

The Bar Council is calling for more clarity in the clause of the Legal Services Bill concerning legal professional privilege, saying that as it currently stands it does not cover all situations.

The clause will give non-lawyers practising in partnership with solicitors and barristers the protection of legal professional privilege when providing advocacy, litigation, conveyancing or probate services.

Bar Council chair Stephen Hockman QC told The Lawyer: “Assuming that ABSs [alternative business structures] survive parliamentary scrutiny, it seems to me that what you need is a clause that is wide enough to cover all the situations in an ABS that would be covered by privilege, so as to make it clear that in any situation where privilege should apply, it does apply.”

Hockman added that the Bar Council has instructed Fountain Court Chambers’ Bankim Thanki QC to study the clause and provide advice that will then be used to lobby the Government for a change.

Thanki said that the common law has always protected legal advice, rather than lawyers.

“If it’s confined to advice that is legal, and one can show that the person giving the advice is qualified, then I can’t see any reason against it,” he said.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer litigation partner Jon Lawrence said he thought the legislation would not give accountants giving tax advice legal professional privilege, but added: “It could be the thin end of the wedge, but it’ll have to be done by legislation.”