Client privacy concerns: Lawyers call for urgent clarity re email search parameters

8th Feb 2023

Lawyers in Victoria are calling for urgent clarification around the rules that allowed the Bar Council to access barristers’ private emails and could put client confidentially at risk.

This call follows the secret search of barristers’ email accounts in Victoria, revealed by the Bar Council yesterday, which has seriously concerned solicitors and barristers across the state.

“Most of us were completely unaware that the Bar Council has the right and the ability to search lawyers’ emails,” said Jeremy King, spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance. “Our emails contain confidential and sensitive client information and we are seriously troubled about this potential risk to our client’s privacy.

“In this instance the Bar Council’s motivation was well-meaning and we support their investigation into this instance of deplorable behaviour. Our concern is that we ensure our client’s privacy and privilege is protected going forward.

“All lawyers have a legal obligation to keep their client’s information safe and confidential. This type of secret search could put lawyers at risk of breaching commonwealth and state privacy laws. Anyone holding health information is now potentially in breach of state FOI and Health Records Act.

“We are calling for urgent clarification of the parameters around searching emails and other data, and an explanation of how this could be allowed to happen. If this type of search is allowable, then we need an urgent discussion around how, why and when a search of this nature is permissible and how we can ensure our client’s information is not put at risk.”

Tags: Victoria Privacy