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I have met up with some good friends. We have known each other for ages, and it is always great to get together and have a bit of a debrief about life. There is the IT whiz, the florist and the librarian. They each tell wonderful stories about their customers – the person who thought their systems had crashed but it was a blackout, the yellow vs red rose dilemma, the “it’s a book by that author, you know, the famous one ….”. Can I just bundle into this conversation and debrief about my clients?

Lucky you asked the question. There are definitely a few ethical dynamics to consider. First, confidentiality. I am not sure of the code of confidentiality for florists, but I am sure it isn’t stricter than ours. Essentially, everything about a client and their matter is confidential. We don’t even have to start to consider whether it is privileged. Confidentiality is a much broader obligation covering everything. The fact that they are a client, their contact details, let alone what they want advice on – all confidential.

Some people think that omitting critical details (like names) makes it fine. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Someone out there, someone overhearing our chatter, may well be able to piece the bits together.

The safe harbour is our office. Our office colleagues are the ones we can talk to, have team meetings with, be mentored by, debrief with.

If we, as a part of the system (of justice), criticise it inappropriately, if we encourage a disregard for it, then we are not upholding the administration of justice.

Second, officer of the court obligations. That really sets us apart and definitely doesn’t apply to the IT whiz, florist or librarian. We have to uphold our system of justice. The way we speak about that system, the way we interact with it – that is all part of upholding it. If we, as a part of that system, criticise it inappropriately, if we encourage a disregard for it, then we are not upholding the administration of justice.

Maybe it is time for us to go down to our local courthouse (restrictions permitting). Go and sit quietly in a courtroom for a little while and think about the importance of our part in the administration of justice. Particularly if we don’t often enter court otherwise. We are all officers of the court, regardless of whether we are litigators.

Third, informality. Whether we realise it or not, we have a particular way of speaking – our own legal jargon. Because it is jargon, it may be misunderstood by others, particularly in informal situations. Do we talk about wins in matters where the non-lawyers wouldn’t think either side really can win – child protection matters, for instance? How do we use the term victim, given the prominence that term now has in the public consciousness?

Like all friends, we need to be careful who we choose for our debriefing buddies. Some are not the best for work matters – maybe get these particular ones to sort out why our smart fridge is defrosting, our roses are wilting and our current book is boring.

Linden Barnes is a Senior Ethics Solicitor with the Law Society of NSW.