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Thomas Stephen Cowell v The Law Society

Summary

The Solicitors Accounts Rules overrode any contractual duty of confidence that might subsist between solicitor and client.

Facts

Application by the claimant for a declaration as to whether or not he had breached r.27 Solicitors Account Rules 1991 ('the Rules') by refusing to comply with the defendant's requirement to produce documents relating to the accounts of a secret trust of which he was the sole trustee. The claimant was a solicitor practising as T S Cowell until he retired in 1999 when he became a consultant to the firm. In 1991 the claimant established a secret trust on the instructions of a client. He was instructed to keep all information concerning the trust quiet and confidential. In 1993 the defendant's investigation accountant examined the claimant's books and wrote to the claimant asking for details of the trust. The claimant refused to disclose any information.

Held

Contractual duty of confidence was subject to a duty to comply with the law. Parry-Jones v Law Society (1969) 1 Ch 1 followed. The Rules overrode any privilege or confidence that might subsist between a solicitor and client and r.27 had been breached by the claimaint by refusing to disclose the accounts of the secret trust. The Law Society was entitled to require the claimant to produce the documents.

Judgment accordingly.

Chancery Division
Judge Levy QC
Judgment date
12 November 2002
References

​LTL 18/3/2002 : (2002) 13 EG 98 (CS) : (2002) 3 WLR 1011