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Global Guide: Legal Professional Privilege

Law as at November 2023

We are delighted to publish the latest edition of our popular review of law and practice relating to legal professional privilege in 23 jurisdictions across Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific. The review has been fully revised and updated to take into account all the latest developments on this important topic.

The laws on legal professional privilege are a point of significant interest and divergence across the global legal landscape. Advice that is privileged in one country may not be protected in others. Differences in the application of legal professional privilege by courts and regulators across jurisdictions can lead to difficult decisions for organisations under investigation. Even within a jurisdiction, the scope and application of legal professional privilege may be the subject of debate amongst experts - and lead to dispute between parties.

For 23 jurisdictions, including the EU, our guide provides at-a-glance answers to the following key questions:

  • Are the concepts of disclosure of documents and a right to privilege recognised?
  • Is the concept of in-house lawyer privilege recognised? Are there any limiting factors?
  • How might legal advice privilege be waived or lost?
  • What law determines whether privilege applies to a document or communication?
  • Is the doctrine of privilege respected and applied by regulatory and other investigative bodies?
  • Are there any likely developments which might affect privilege in this jurisdiction?

The review is intended to highlight issues rather than to provide comprehensive advice. If you have any particular questions about privilege, please contact the Linklaters LLP lawyers with whom you work.

Global Guide:
Legal Professional Privilege


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Key themes


Privilege is not the same everywhere

A duty to keep legal advice confidential exists in most jurisdictions but the basis, application and scope of protection afforded by privilege varies. In the UK, privilege is generally highly respected and maintained in most court proceedings and investigations. Japan, however, has no specific doctrine of legal privilege, only a narrow scope of attorney-client privilege in the context of administrative investigation procedures. Such differing approaches will be a crucial consideration for any business navigating privilege internationally.


Waiver of privilege

The boundaries of waiver of privilege can be controversial but the concept of inadvertent loss of privilege exists in most jurisdictions, meaning parties must be careful not to lose confidentiality in documents or to display conduct from which a waiver of privilege might be implied.

In many jurisdictions, privilege can be waived only with a client’s express consent. Exceptions exist, however, and it is common across the globe for lawyers to be under a duty to disclose client confidential information without client consent where there are suspicions of certain activity, such as money laundering.


Respected by regulators

The extent to which domestic privilege rules apply to regulators varies across jurisdictions. It also continues to be an area of development to which global companies should be alert. For example, the Indian government is considering reforms which would require lawyers to share details of suspicious activity with relevant authorities, while Germany’s reforms to its corporate crime legislation, including rules on the seizure of materials discovered during investigations, are yet to be finalised.


Recognised in-house?

Global businesses must remain alive to the risks posed by the fact that advice of in-house counsel is treated differently across jurisdictions. Japan, Thailand and the UK treat in-house counsel identically to external lawyers when it comes to legal professional privilege, whereas many European jurisdictions do not recognise in-house lawyer privilege at all. However, recent debate in some jurisdictions has led to change; in Switzerland privilege for in-house counsel is soon to be recognised under domestic legislation and Belgium has now enacted laws confirming that in-house counsel legal privilege can apply.

Key Contacts

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