The Supreme Court confirmed today that legal advice privilege (“LAP”) cannot be claimed in respect of confidential communications between accountants and their clients for the purpose of requesting or providing legal advice. LAP can be claimed only where such communications are between qualified solicitors, barristers or foreign lawyers (including in-house lawyers) and their clients: R (on the application of Prudential plc and another) v Special Commissioner of Income Tax and another [2013] UKSC 1.

Herbert Smith Freehills partners Heather Gething and Julian Copeman, assisted by Andrew Cooke, advised the Law Society of England and Wales on its successful intervention in the appeal. The Law Society was represented by Sir Sydney Kentridge QC, Tom Adam QC and Tim Johnston of Brick Court Chambers. The Bar Council, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (“ICAEW”), the Association Internationale pour la Protection de la Propriété Intellectuelle UK and the Legal Services Board also intervened.

By a majority of five to two, the Supreme Court confirmed the current position that LAP is confined to confidential legal advice provided by professional, qualified lawyers. The Supreme Court therefore accepted the Law Society’s position that LAP should not be extended beyond its current scope at common law and that any such extension was a matter for Parliament.

For more information, please see our Litigation Notes blog.