Is it proper for a lawyer to divulge to Internal Revenue Service agents, who are conducting an investigation, whether or not ne has represented legally certain named individuals who presumably are the subject of investigation?
Unless wrong-doing would thereby be concealed, or an unlawful purpose accomplished, a lawyer should not divulge that he has represented a client. A layman should be encouraged to seek early legal assistance and should not be deterred from doing so. This Committee does not pass upon the question of law as to whether or not the identity of a client is privileged information, but irrespective of whether the client’s identity constitutes a secret or confidential disclosure, a lawyer’s responsibility extends to refraining from disclosing his client’s name without obtaining the client’s authority to do so. DR 4-101; EC 4-1. See In re Kaplan, 8 N.Y. 2d 214, 218 (1960); People ex rel Vogelstein v. Warden, 150 Misc. 714, affd. 242 App. Div. 64 (1934)
The fact that the Internal Revenue Service is conducting an investigation does not without more alter the lawyer’s professional responsibilities to his client.
October 10, 1973