Legal Word of the Day: “Solicitor-Client Privilege”

Photo: Hobvias Sudoneighm

Photo: Hobvias Sudoneighm

“Solicitor-Client Privilege” — This privilege refers to the legal right of an individual to withhold information from an opposing party, a court, a tribunal, and investigators, including law enforcement officials.

Privilege applies to confidential communications. It exists any time a client seeks legal advice. This “class privilege” developed so that people could talk to a lawyer and know that what is said will not be revealed. It is a substantive law principle, designed to promote confidence in the administration of justice.

The Supreme Court of Canada adopted Wigmore’s definition of solicitor-client privilege in Howley v. The King, [1927] SCR 529, 1927 CanLII 88 (SCC):

Where legal advice of any kind is sought from a professional legal adviser in his capacity as such, the communications relevant to that purpose, made in confidence by the client, are at his instance permanently protected from disclosure by himself or by the legal adviser, except the client waives protection.

For the time being, solicitor-client privilege does not extend to paralegals, although a dispositive case has not been heard since paralegal licensing began.

Chancey v. Dharmadi, 2007 CanLII 28332 (ON SC), is considered to be the first case to discuss the issue of paralegal-client privilege. The Superior Court held that communications passing between a paralegal and a client were privileged from production in this particular civil action, by applying the “Wigmore analysis,” for a case-by-case analysis of privilege. While Chancey does not extend class privilege to paralegals, the decision suggests that privilege may exist for communications between a client and a paralegal licensed by the Law Society.

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