In a decision handed down earlier today, the High Court has upheld RBS’s claim to privilege over certain documents which the bank had been ordered to produce to the court for inspection: Property Alliance Group Limited v The Royal Bank of Scotland Plc  EWHC 3187 (Ch).
The decision confirms that the protection of legal advice privilege is not restricted to actual legal advice. The privilege will protect other information communicated from the lawyer to the client (or vice versa) to enable the lawyer to advise and the client to make informed decisions in a relevant legal context. This may include references to matters in the public domain or to meetings and correspondence that would not, in themselves, be privileged.
The decision is particularly helpful in recognising that the policy justification for privilege applies equally in the context of regulatory investigations, where the public interest will be advanced if regulators can deal with experienced lawyers who can accurately advise their clients how to respond and co-operate. The judgment notes: “Such lawyers must be able to give their client candid factual briefings as well as legal advice, secure in the knowledge that any such communications and any record of their discussions and the decisions taken will not subsequently be disclosed without the client’s consent.”
James Norris-Jones and Maura McIntosh, a partner and professional support consultant in our disputes team, consider the decision in our Litigation Noes blog here.