82-F-25 - Client Information to Funding Agency

 

BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE

FORMAL ETHICS OPINION 82-F-25

 

Inquiry has been made concerning the propriety of a legal services law office providing certain information about clients to an agency funding the law office.

The agency administers funds to the law office under the Older Americans Act of 1965, Sub-Chapter C, Chapter XIII, Title 45, Code of Federal Regulations. The agency has requested Social Security number, name, addresses, zip code, date of birth, sex, race, source of referral and date service started regarding each client provided service under the Title III Older Americans Act program. The computerized reporting system is designed to improve the funding agency's ability to monitor the services rendered with the funds, to reduce paperwork of the funding agency, to increase the amount of data available for better planning; and, to implement a client-tracking system in order to provide better coordinated services for the law firm's clients.

The funding agency has recommended that the law firm advise the clients about the release of the information and that the informed and written consent of the client be obtained.

It is the opinion of the Board that the social security number, name, address, zip code, date of birth, sex, race, source of referral and date service started are "secrets" within the meaning of Disciplinary Rule 4-101(A) of the Code of Professional Responsibility and are subject to the attorney-client privilege. It would be a violation of DR 4-101(B) for the law firm to reveal the information to the agency, without the informed consent of the clients involved, which consent should be expressed in writing by each client after full disclosure and explanation by the law office, and assurance that a denial of consent will have no detrimental results to the client.

The law firm may give the requested information only if it obtains the appropriate consent.

This 22nd day of February, 1982.

ETHICS COMMITTEE:

W. H. Lassiter, Chairman
W. J. Flippin
George Morrow

APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD