Not every communication made between a lawyer and their client is subject to solicitor-client privilege — only legal advice is covered, and when it comes to the alleged pressure the Prime Minister’s Office may have put on former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to not prosecute SNC-Lavalin, that would not necessarily be privileged, ethics lawyers say.
Wilson-Raybould was the chief law officer of the Crown, the government’s lawyer and if the government is seeking legal advice, like a lawyer helping a client with an expectation of confidentiality, those conversations are between them. But the AG has more than one role and in her role in deciding whether to prosecute offenders, the government is not her client and communications with officials about that are not subject to solicitor-client privilege, says Gavin MacKenzie of MacKenzie Barristers and author of Lawyers and Ethics: Professional Responsibility and Discipline.
“In some situations, clients and lawyers communicate with each other for multiple purposes, so the exercise of determining whether specific communications are privileged may require a meticulous review of the communications. Ms. Wilson-Raybould was wise to seek the advice of esteemed counsel to assist in this process,” MacKenzie told Legal Feeds via email.