Parry-Jones v Law Society

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date15 November 1967
Judgment citation (vLex)[1967] EWCA Civ J1115-2
Date15 November 1967
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
The Law Society and others

[1967] EWCA Civ J1115-2


The Master of the Rolls (Lord Denning)

Lord Justice Diplock and

Lord Justice Salmon

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

Civil Division

From Mr Justice Buckley

THE APPELLANT appeared in person.

MR THOMAS BINGHAM (instructed by Messrs Hempsons) appeared as Counsel for the Respondents.


THE MASTER OF THE ROLLS. For many years now the Law Society have made rules about clients' money. Every solicitor has to keep his clients' money in a separate account relating to clients' money. This has been a very important safeguard for clients all over the country. Every solicitor has also every year to engage an accountant to examine his accounts and to give a certificate that he is complying with the rules, In addition, the Council can send down an accountant of their own choice to make an investigation of the solicitor's books to see if he is complying with the rules.


On the 9th February, 1967, and also on the 3rd March, 1967, the Law Society wrote to Mr 'Parry-Jones requiring him to produce at his office his various books of account for the inspection of Mr Harden, the Law Society's investigating accountant. As far as we know, Mr Parry-Jones has complied with that request and the investigation has been held. But in the course of it, Mr Parry-Jones raised two points of some importance. And he has brought an action to test the position. The first point is this. He says that he is not bound to produce to the accountant a document or information which is privileged from production. We all know that, as between solicitor and client, there are two privileges. The first is the privilege relating to legal proceedings, commonly called legal professional privilege. A solicitor must not produce or disclose in any legal proceedings any of the communications between himself and his client without the client's consent. The second privilege arises out of the confidence subsisting between solicitor and client similar to the confidence which applies between doctor and patient, banker and customer, accountant and client, and the like. The law implies a term into the contract whereby a professional man is to keep his client's affairs secret and not to disclose them to anyone without just cause, see Tournier v. National Provincial Bank, 1924, 1 King's Bench, at pages 479-481. This particularly applies inthe relationship of solicitor and client. The solicitor is not to disclose bis client's affairs to anyone at all except under the most special and exceptional circumstances. In reliance on these principles, Mr Parry-Jones says that" the accountant sent by the Law Society should not be allowed to see documents or information relating to a client's affairs.


We have been into the matter with the help of Mr Parry-Jones (who has argued his case very well on his own behalf) and Mr Bingham on behalf of the Law Society. In my opinion the contract between solicitor and client must be taken to contain this implications. The solicitor must obey the law, and, in particular, he must comply with the rules made under the authority of statute for the conduct of the profession. If the rules require him to disclose his client's affairs, then he must do so.


The rules are made under Section 29 of the Solicitors Act, 1957. It says: "The Council shall make rules - (a)- as to the opening and keeping by solicitors of accounts at banks for clients' money; (b) as to the keeping by solicitors of accounts containing particulars and information as to moneys received, held or paid by them for or on account of their clients; and (c) empowering the Council to take such action as may be necessary to enable them to ascertain whether or not the rules are being complied with". All the matters contained in (a), (b) and (c) are clients' matters. The books and accounts contain information as to clients' affairs. By enabling the Council to "take such action as may be necessary", the statute imports that rules can be made whereby the Council can look into the solicitor's books and supporting documents in order to see that the rules are complied with, even if it does mean disclosing the clients' affaire.


Under the statute the Council have made Rule ll(1) of the Accounts Rules, which says: "In order to ascertain whether these rules have been complied with, the Council, acting either-(a) on their own motion; or (b) on a written statement or request transmitted to them by or on behalf of the governing body of a Provincial Law Society or a Committee thereof; or (c) on a written complaint lodged with them by a third party, may require any solicitor to produce" his books, and so forth. In my opinion that rule is a valid rule which overrides any privilege or confidence which otherwise might subsist between solicitor and client. It enables the Law Society for the public good to hold an investigation, even if it involves getting information as to clients' affairs. But they and their accountant must, of...

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