By Tee, The writer
What comes to mind when you think of a lawyer, Barrister or a legal practitioner, the judge who sits in court and presides over many matters in a day, who keeps them in check. How are they able to divorce their personal life from the profession they find themselves? What is the justice system or the rule of law? My name is Twumwaa, a BL candidate at the Gambia Law School introducing the Column Legal Nuggets.
I will be educating you on the application of the laws of the Gambia and ethics of the legal profession
When a client seeks legal advice or representation from a legal Practitioner, they establish a special relationship built on trust and confidentiality. In The Gambia, the legal profession operates under the Legal Practitioners Act, 2016 and the Code of Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2011, which sets out the standards that legal practitioners must adhere to in discharging their duties to their clients and the court. In this article, we will explore the importance of the attorney-client relationship and the confidentiality rule, as defined by these laws and the Evidence Act Cap 6:06, Laws of the Gambia.
In case you were wondering, yes, the legal profession is one of the most highly regulated professions in the world being “The Noble Profession” as stated clearly by the former Chief Justice of Ghana, Justice Sophia Abena Boafoa Akuffo (RTD). This tells you that the Legal Profession is one built on high moral values and professional standards. So, the misconception that lawyers are the law should be erased from our minds because in the coming days we will be educating ourselves on many issues regarding the legal profession and Practice in The Gambia.
The attorney-client relationship is a crucial part of the legal profession, based on mutual respect and trust. Attorneys are bound to act in their clients’ best interests, provide competent legal representation, and maintain confidentiality. Which means that the Legal Practitioner is supposed to keep the interaction private and confidential as it is.
Under the Legal Practitioners Act, attorneys in The Gambia must uphold high standards of professional conduct, including honesty, integrity, and confidentiality. Attorneys must avoid conflicts of interest, act independently, and always act in the best interest of the client.
The confidentiality rule is an essential aspect of the attorney-client relationship, designed to foster trust and promote open communication. Clients must be able to communicate freely with their attorneys without worrying about their information being disclosed. This rule ensures that clients can be honest with their attorneys, which is essential for effective legal representation.
The Code of Conduct for Legal Practitioners in The Gambia lays out specific guidelines on confidentiality. It states that “a legal practitioner shall preserve the confidentiality of his client and shall not disclose any information relating to the client’s affairs without the consent of the client, except where required by law or by order of a court of competent jurisdiction.”
This means that attorneys are prohibited from disclosing any information obtained from clients, whether it’s communications, documents, or other details, without the client’s consent. This rule applies even if the information is not directly related to the legal representation or if the client has disclosed illegal or unethical behavior.
Exceptions to the Confidentiality Rule
Although the confidentiality rule is fundamental, there are some exceptions where an attorney may need to disclose confidential information. Section 172 of the evidence Act of The Gambia outlines some of these exceptions, including:
Client Consent – The client may consent to the disclosure of confidential information.
Court Order – The court may order an attorney to disclose confidential information in certain circumstances, such as to prevent a crime or protect the public interest.
Legal Obligation – An attorney may be legally required to disclose confidential information in cases of money laundering or terrorism financing. It must also be noted that the Legal Practitioner’s duty to the Court overrides his/her duty to the client because he is an officer of the court.
The attorney-client relationship is based on trust and confidentiality, and it is a critical part of the legal profession. In The Gambia, the Legal Practitioners Act and the Code of Conduct for Legal Practitioners outline the standards that attorneys must adhere to in this relationship. The confidentiality rule is crucial to this relationship, and attorneys must maintain their clients’ privacy except in specific circumstances. Understanding these rules is vital for attorneys to provide effective legal representation and preserve the trust of their clients.
The writer is a BL candidate at the Gambia Law School. She is driven by her affinity to the legal profession and relies on Precedents and Acts of the National Assembly to educate the public on bits and pieces of the application of the Laws of the Gambia and Ethics of the legal profession. These write-ups are for educational purposes only and not to serve as a substitute for Legal Advice. Email : email@example.com