UK Law Society Report: G7 bar leaders condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine and call for protections of client-lawyer confidentiality

The presidents of law societies and bar associations from G7 countries met and signed resolutions condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and calling for protections of client-lawyer confidentiality.

Bar leaders from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) gathered for one of the shadow events before the main government-to-government meeting taking place in the Bavarian Alps on 26 to 28 June.

On 27 May, they signed a joint statement in Berlin which clearly stated that Russia’s war on Ukraine violated the “fundamental and generally accepted principles of international law” and represented “an egregious attack on the rule of law”.

Attendees to the summit, who included our president Stephanie Boyce, also signed a resolution calling on their respective governments to protect:

  • client-lawyer confidentiality
  • professional secrecy against any “laws or practices that might violate them”

They signed another calling for ministers of justice to attend future G7 meetings.

The American Bar Association is consulting internally and is expected to confirm its support for the resolutions in the coming days.

Condemning the Russian invasion

The statement on the war in Ukraine condemned Russia’s actions, described as an unlawful attack undermining the rule of law in the region and internationally.

Bar leaders stated that all countries must respect:

  • the Charter of the United Nations
  • the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • the Geneva Conventions
  • general principles of public international law and international humanitarian law

They expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and support for Ukrainian lawyers “who continue upholding the rule of law, defending the fundamental rights of their clients in Ukraine, and securing the continued operation of the criminal and civil justice systems in Ukraine under unimaginably difficult circumstances”.

Read the full statement on the war in Ukraine (PDF 58 KB)

Protecting the profession

Bar leaders, who gathered in person for the first time since 2019, also signed a “resolution on the confidentiality of the client-lawyer relationship”.

They discussed:

  • the essential role of lawyers in ensuring accountability and access to justice worldwide
  • the link between professional secrecy and citizens’ right to “effective access to justice”

Leaders expressed concern that, under some legal jurisdictions, lawyers are prevented from practising effectively due to laws which interfere with fair trial guarantees and result in breaches of confidentiality.

They called on the G7 governments to:

  • take measures to ensure that client-lawyer confidentiality and professional secrecy are protected
  • consider consulting directly with bars and law societies “if legislative proposals might impair professional secrecy and client-lawyer confidentiality”

Read the resolution on the confidentiality of client-lawyer relationship (PDF 64 KB)

A separate resolution signed in the German capital called for meetings of ministers of justice to be included in the conference curriculum of the G7 governments going forward.

Read the resolution on meetings of the ministers of justice (PDF 59 KB)

The G7 bar leaders summit was hosted by the German Federal Bar (Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer) and the German Bar Association (Deutscher Anwaltverein) and took place at the Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer premises in central Berlin.