Rule Six: Confidentiality
(a) A paralegal shall not, during or after termination of the professional relationship with the client, use or reveal a confidence or secret of the client known to the paralegal, unless the client consents after the disclosure.
(1) A paralegal shall not use confidential information to the disadvantage of the client.
(2) A paralegal shall not use confidential information to the advantage of the paralegal, the supervising attorney or a third person.
(b) A paralegal may reveal confidential information only after full disclosure and with the client's written consent; or when required by law or a court order; or when necessary to prevent the client from committing an act which could result in death or serious bodily harm.
(c) A paralegal shall keep those individuals responsible for the legal representation of a client fully informed of any confidential information the paralegal may have pertaining to that client.
One of the most important ethical responsibilities of the paralegal is maintaining the confidentiality of the client. The rule of confidentiality encompasses the attorney-client privilege and further secrets gained through the attorney-client relationship.
Consequently, the rule uses two terms that need to be defined. "Confidential information" denotes information relating to a client, whatever its source, which is neither public knowledge nor available to the public. "Secret" denotes information gained in the professional relationship that the client has requested be held sacred or the revelation of which would be embarrassing or detrimental to the client.
Although the paralegal is charged with the obligation to maintain confidentiality, the paralegal is allowed to reveal confidences with the client's consent. Further, the paralegal may be required to reveal client confidences when subjected to a court order. Failure to reveal confidences in such an instance can result in obstruction of justice charges. If a paralegal is ever faced with a court order requiring him or her to reveal confidences, the paralegal should first turn to the supervising attorney for guidance. The paralegal will also find instructive In re Marriage of Decker, 153 Ill 2d. 298, 606 N.E2d 1094 (1992).
It is more likely, however, that client confidences will be revealed through inadvertent slips of the tongue. Conversation at cocktail parties or imprudent comments made to colleagues in elevators can result in damage to the client. The paralegal is well advised, then, to avoid speaking about the secrets of the client in settings outside of the law office or to third parties.