August 1, 2006 March 1, 2016
RULE 1.6 CONFIDENTIALITY OF INFORMATION
1 (a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of the client unless
2 the client consents, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the
3 representation, or the disclosure is required by paragraph (b) or permitted by paragraph (c).
4 The duty of confidentiality continues after the lawyer-client relationship has terminated.
5 (b) A lawyer is required to reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the
6 extent the lawyer believes reasonably necessary to prevent reasonably certain death or
7 substantial bodily harm.
8 (c) A lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the
9 lawyer reasonably believes necessary:
10 (1) to prevent the client from committing a crime or fraud that is reasonably certain
11 to result in substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another and in
12 furtherance of which the client has used or is using the lawyer's services;
13 (2) to prevent, mitigate, or rectify substantial injury to the financial interests or
14 property of another that is reasonably certain to result or has resulted from the client's
15 commission of crime or fraud in the furtherance of which the client has used the lawyer's
17 (3) to secure legal advice about the lawyer's compliance with these Rules;
18 (4) to establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy between
19 the lawyer and the client, to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the
20 lawyer based upon conduct in which the client was involved, or to respond to allegations in
21 any proceeding concerning the lawyer's representation of the client;
22 (5) to comply with other law or a court order
23 (6) to detect and resolve conflicts of interest arising from the lawyer's change of
24 employment or from changes in the composition or ownership of a firm, but only if the
25 revealed information would not compromise the attorney-client privilege or otherwise
26 prejudice the client.
27 (d) A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized
28 disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.
30  This Rule governs the disclosure by a lawyer of information relating to the representation
31 of a client during and after the lawyer's representation of the client. See Rule 1.18 for the
32 lawyer's duties with respect to information provided to the lawyer by a potential client and
33 Rules 1.8(b) and 1.9(c) for the lawyer's duties with respect to the use of such information to
34 the disadvantage of clients and former clients.
35  A fundamental principle in the client-lawyer relationship is that the lawyer must not
36 reveal information relating to the representation without the client's consent. While it is not
37 a requirement, it is a preferable practice to obtain the client's consent in writing when consent
38 is given. This contributes to the trust that is the hallmark of the client-lawyer relationship.
39 The client is thereby encouraged to seek legal assistance and to communicate fully and
40 frankly with the lawyer even as to embarrassing or legally damaging subject matter. The
41 lawyer needs this information to represent the client effectively and, if necessary, to advise
42 the client to refrain from wrongful conduct. Almost without exception, clients come to
43 lawyers in order to determine their rights and what is, in the complex of laws and regulations,
44 deemed to be legal and correct. Based upon experience, lawyers know that almost all clients
45 follow the advice given, and the law is upheld.
46  This principle of lawyer-client confidentiality is given effect by related law, such as the
47 attorney-client privilege, the work product doctrine and the rule of confidentiality established
48 in professional ethics. The attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine apply in
49 judicial and other proceedings in which a lawyer may be called as a witness or otherwise
50 required to produce evidence concerning a client. The rule of lawyer-client confidentiality
51 applies in situations other than those where evidence is sought from the lawyer through
52 compulsion of law. This rule applies not merely to matters communicated in confidence by
53 the client but also to all information relating to the representation, whatever its source. A
54 lawyer may not disclose such information except as authorized or required by these Rules
55 or other law.
56  Paragraph (a) prohibits a lawyer from revealing information relating to the representation
57 of a client. This prohibition also applies to disclosures by a lawyer that do not in themselves
58 reveal protected information but could reasonably lead to the discovery of such information
59 by a third person. A lawyer's use of a hypothetical to discuss issues relating to the
60 representation is permissible so long as there is no reasonable likelihood that the listener will
61 be able to ascertain the identity of the client or the situation involved.
62 Impliedly Authorized Disclosure
63  Except to the extent that the client's instructions or special circumstances limit that
64 authority, a lawyer is impliedly authorized to make disclosures about a client when
65 appropriate in carrying out the representation. In some situations, for example, a lawyer may
66 be impliedly authorized to admit a fact that cannot properly be disputed or to make a
67 disclosure that facilitates a satisfactory conclusion to a matter. Lawyers in a firm may, in the
68 course of the firm's practice, disclose to each other information relating to a client of the
69 firm, unless the client has instructed that particular information be confined to specified
71 Disclosure Adverse to Client
72  Although the public interest is usually best served by a strict rule requiring lawyers to
73 preserve the confidentiality of information relating to the representation of their clients, the
74 confidentiality rule is subject to limited exceptions. Paragraph (b) recognizes the overriding
75 value of life and physical integrity and requires disclosure reasonably necessary to prevent
76 reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm. Such harm is reasonably certain to occur
77 if it will be suffered imminently or if there is a present and substantial threat that a person
78 will suffer such harm at a later date if the lawyer fails to take action necessary to eliminate
79 the threat. Thus, a lawyer who knows that a client has accidentally discharged toxic waste
80 into a town's water supply must reveal this information to the authorities if there is a present
81 and substantial risk that a person who drinks the water will contract a life-threatening or
82 debilitating disease and the lawyer's disclosure is necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce
83 the number of victims.
84  Paragraph (c)(1) is a limited exception to the rule of confidentiality that permits the
85 lawyer to reveal information to the extent necessary to enable affected persons or appropriate
86 authorities to prevent the client from committing a crime or fraud, as defined in Rule 1.0(e),
87 that is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the financial or property interests
88 of another and in furtherance of which the client has used or is using the lawyer's services.
89 Such a serious abuse of the client-lawyer relationship by the client forfeits the protection of
90 this Rule. The client can, of course, prevent such disclosure by refraining from the wrongful
91 conduct. Although paragraph (c)(1) does not require the lawyer to reveal the client's
92 misconduct, the lawyer may not counsel or assist the client in conduct the lawyer knows is
93 criminal or fraudulent. See Rule 1.2(d). See also Rule 1.16 with respect to the lawyer's
94 obligation or right to withdraw from the representation of the client in such circumstances,
95 and Rule 1.13(c), which permits the lawyer, where the client is an organization, to reveal
96 information relating to the representation in limited circumstances.
97  Paragraph (c)(2) addresses the situation in which the lawyer does not learn of the client's
98 crime or fraud until after it has been consummated. Although the client no longer has the
99 option of preventing disclosure by refraining from the wrongful conduct, there will be
100 situations in which the loss suffered by the affected person can be prevented, rectified or
101 mitigated. In such situations, the lawyer may disclose information relating to the
102 representation to the extent necessary to enable the affected persons to prevent or mitigate
103 reasonably certain losses or to attempt to recoup their losses. Paragraph (c)(2) does not apply
104 when a person who has committed a crime or fraud thereafter employs a lawyer for
105 representation concerning that offense.
106 Disclosure to Secure Compliance Advice
107  A lawyer's confidentiality obligations do not preclude a lawyer from securing confidential
108 legal advice about the lawyer's personal responsibility to comply with these Rules. In most
109 situations, disclosing information to secure such advice will be impliedly authorized for the
110 lawyer to carry out the representation. Even when the disclosure is not impliedly authorized,
111 paragraph (c)(3) permits such disclosure because of the importance of a lawyer's compliance
112 with these Rules.
113 Disclosure in Controversies Regarding the Lawyer's Conduct
114  Where a legal claim or disciplinary charge alleges complicity of the lawyer in a client's
115 conduct or other misconduct of the lawyer involving representation of the client, the lawyer
116 may respond to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to establish a defense.
117 The same is true with respect to a claim involving the conduct or representation of a former
118 client. Such a charge can arise in a civil, criminal, disciplinary or other proceeding and can
119 be based on a wrong allegedly committed by the lawyer against the client or on a wrong
120 alleged by a third person, for example, a person claiming to have been defrauded by the
121 lawyer and client acting together. The lawyer's right to respond arises when an assertion of
122 such complicity has been made. Paragraph (c)(4) does not require the lawyer to await the
123 commencement of an action or proceeding that charges such complicity, so that the defense
124 may be established by responding directly to a third party who has made such an assertion.
125 The right to defend also applies, of course, where a proceeding has been commenced.
126  A lawyer entitled to a fee is permitted by paragraph (c)(4) to prove the services rendered
127 in an action to collect it. This aspect of the rule expresses the principle that the beneficiary
128 of a fiduciary relationship may not exploit it to the detriment of the fiduciary.
129 Disclosure Required by Law or Court Order
130  When disclosure of information relating to the representation appears to be required by
131 other law, the lawyer must discuss the matter with the client to the extent required by Rule
132 1.4. If the other law requires disclosure, paragraph (c)(5) permits the lawyer to make such
133 disclosures as are necessary to comply with the law.
134  A lawyer may be ordered to reveal information relating to the representation of a client
135 by a court or by another tribunal or governmental entity claiming authority pursuant to other
136 law to compel the disclosure. Absent the client's written consent to do otherwise, the lawyer
137 should assert on behalf of the client all nonfrivolous claims that the order is not authorized
138 by other law or that the information sought is protected against disclosure by the
139 attorney-client privilege or other applicable law. In the event of an adverse ruling, the lawyer
140 must consult with the client about the possibility of appeal to the extent required by Rule 1.4.
141 Unless review is sought, however, paragraph (c)(5) permits the lawyer to comply with the
142 court's order.
143 Limits of Extent of Disclosure
144  Paragraph (b) requires and paragraph (c) permits disclosure only to the extent the lawyer
145 reasonably believes the disclosure is necessary to accomplish one of the purposes specified.
146 Where practicable, the lawyer should first seek to persuade the client to take suitable action
147 to obviate the need for disclosure. In any case, a disclosure adverse to the client's interest
148 should be no greater than the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to accomplish the
149 purpose. If the disclosure will be made in connection with a judicial proceeding, the
150 disclosure should be made in a manner that limits access to the information to the tribunal
151 or other persons having a need to know it and appropriate protective orders or other
152 arrangements should be sought by the lawyer to the fullest extent practicable.
153  Paragraph (c) permits but does not require the disclosure of information relating to a
154 client's representation to accomplish the purposes specified in paragraphs (c)(1) through
155 (c)(5). In exercising the discretion conferred by this Rule, the lawyer may consider such
156 factors as the nature of the lawyer's relationship with the client and with those who might be
157 injured by the client, the lawyer's own involvement in the transaction and factors that may
158 extenuate the conduct in question. A lawyer's decision not to disclose as permitted by
159 paragraph (c) does not violate this Rule. Disclosure may be required, however, by other rules.
160 Some rules require disclosure only if such disclosure would be permitted by paragraph (c).
161 See Rules 8.1 and 8.3. Rule 3.3, on the other hand, requires disclosure in some circumstances
162 regardless of whether such disclosure is permitted by this Rule.
163 Detection of Conflicts of Interest
164  Paragraph (c)(6) recognizes that lawyers in different firms may need to disclose limited
165 information to each other to detect and resolve conflicts of interest, such as when a lawyer
166 is considering an association with another firm, two or more firms are considering a merger,
167 or a lawyer is considering the purchase of a law practice. See Rule 1.17, Comment .
168 Under these circumstances, lawyers and law firms are permitted to disclose limited
169 information, but only once substantive discussions regarding the new relationship have
170 occurred. Any such disclosure should ordinarily include no more than the identity of the
171 persons and entities involved in a matter, a brief summary of the general issues involved, and
172 information about whether the matter has terminated. Even this limited information,
173 however, should be disclosed only to the extent reasonably necessary to detect and resolve
174 conflicts of interest that might arise from the possible new relationship. Moreover, the
175 disclosure of any information is prohibited if it would compromise the attorney-client
176 privilege or otherwise prejudice the client (e.g., the fact that a corporate client is seeking
177 advice on a corporate takeover that has not been publicly announced; that a person has
178 consulted a lawyer about the possibility of divorce before the person's intentions are known
179 to the person's spouse; or that a person has consulted a lawyer about a criminal investigation
180 that has not led to a public charge). Under those circumstances, paragraph (a) prohibits
181 disclosure unless the client or former client gives informed consent. A lawyer's fiduciary
182 duty to the lawyer's firm may also govern a lawyer's conduct when exploring an association
183 with another firm and is beyond the scope of these Rules.
184  Any information disclosed pursuant to paragraph (c)(6) may be used or further
185 disclosed only to the extent necessary to detect and resolve conflicts of interest. Paragraph
186 (c)(6) does not restrict the use of information acquired by means independent of any
187 disclosure pursuant to paragraph (c)(6). Paragraph (c)(6) also does not affect the disclosure
188 of information within a law firm when the disclosure is otherwise authorized, see Comment
189 , such as when a lawyer in a firm discloses information to another lawyer in the same firm
190 to detect and resolve conflicts of interest that could arise in connection with undertaking a
191 new representation.
192 Acting Competently to Preserve Confidentiality
16 18] A Paragraph (d) requires a lawyer must to act competently to safeguard information
194 relating to the representation of a client against unauthorized access by third parties and
195 against inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure by the lawyer or other persons who are
196 participating in the representation of the client or who are subject to the lawyer's supervision.
197 See Rules 5.1, 5.3 and 8.4(a). The unauthorized access to, or the inadvertent or unauthorized
198 disclosure of, information relating to the representation of a client does not constitute a
199 violation of paragraph (d) if the lawyer has made reasonable efforts to prevent the access or
200 disclosure. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer's efforts
201 include the sensitivity of the information, the likelihood of disclosure if additional safeguards
202 are not employed, the cost of employing additional safeguards, the difficulty of implementing
203 the safeguards, and the extent to which the safeguards adversely affect the lawyer's ability
204 to represent clients (e.g., by making a device or important piece of software excessively
205 difficult to use). A client may require the lawyer to implement special security measures not
206 required by this Rule or may consent to forgo security measures that would otherwise be
207 required by this Rule. Whether a lawyer may be required to take additional steps to safeguard
208 a client's information in order to comply with other law, such as state and federal laws that
209 govern data privacy or that impose notification requirements upon the loss of, or unauthorized
210 access to, electronic information, is beyond the scope of these Rules. For a lawyer's duties
211 when sharing information with nonlawyers outside the lawyer's own firm, see Rule 5.3,
212 Comments -.
17 19] When transmitting a communication that includes information relating to the
214 representation of a client, the lawyer must take reasonable precautions to prevent the
215 information from coming into the hands of unintended recipients. This duty, however, does
216 not require that the lawyer use special security measures if the method of communication
217 affords a reasonable expectation of privacy. Special circumstances, however, may warrant
218 special precautions. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the
219 lawyer's expectation of confidentiality include the sensitivity of the information and the
220 extent to which the privacy of the communication is protected by law or by a confidentiality
221 agreement. A client may require the lawyer to implement special security measures not
222 required by this Rule or may give written consent to the use of a means of communication
223 that would otherwise be prohibited by this Rule.
224 Lawyer Copying of Items Related to Representation
18 20] For the lawyer's own purposes, including facilitation of any revelation that might be
226 permitted by paragraph (c), a lawyer is permitted to make copies of items in a file. The
227 lawyer may charge the client for this copying only if allowed by Rule 1.19. The protection
228 of this Rule, and the circumstances in which revelation is required or permitted, are
229 applicable to the lawyer's copy or copies.
230 Use of Confidential Information to the Disadvantage of Client or Former Client
19 21] Use by the lawyer of confidential information to the disadvantage of a client or
232 former client is governed by Rules 1.8(b) and 1.9.
233 Rule 1.6 amended effective 08/01/01, 08/01/03, 08/01/06, 03/01/16.
234 Reference: Minutes of the Professional Conduct Subcommittee of the Attorney Standards
235 Committee on 03/16/84, 05/23/84, 06/27/84, 08/17/84, 09/13/84, 10/19/84, 12/14/84,
236 02/08/85, 03/11/85, 04/26/85, 08/23/85 and 03/15/86; Minutes of the Joint Committee on
237 Attorney Standards on 6/8/99, 9/16/99. 11/19/99. 3/23/00, 6/13/00, 9/15/00, 11/17/00,
238 6/12/01, 02/28/03, 02/27/04, 11/19/04, 06/14/05, 09/09/05, 09/13/13, 09/12/14.