Confidentiality and Funder Reporting Requirements: Ethical Considerations for Releasing Client Information
Lawyers in every U.S. jurisdiction have an ethical requirement to protect client confidentiality, and a legal privilege to prevent disclosure of attorney-client communications in court. However, nonprofit lawyers may be subject to grant requirements or contract provisions that create a different obligation around information-sharing and confidentiality. Legal services providers cannot assume that funders of legal services understand lawyer confidentiality rules. This is especially true in an era that encourages collaboration and facilitates broad data collection. Many funding streams that were not designed with lawyers in mind now allow funding to be used to provide direct legal services. To stay in compliance with professional ethics, grant conditions, and contract terms, nonprofit legal services providers will need to pay attention to the differences between attorney ethics and funding rules, negotiate for appropriate confidentiality provisions, and train staff to both implement any heightened privacy requirements required and resist inappropriate demands for confidential and privileged information. This tool will help programs to ask the right questions and take the necessary steps to properly protect client information.