The battle over professional secrecy has weakened lawyers’ representatives

The battle around the professional secrecy of lawyers which agitated the profession until a paroxysmal fool’s game in mid-November with Eric Dupond-Moretti, the Minister of Justice, will leave its mark. Even if everything has fallen like a puff since the final vote on the bill for confidence in the judicial institution by the National Assembly and then by the Senate, on November 15 and 17. “Everyone finds the passed law better for lawyers than the law in force, notes one of the national leaders of the profession, but no one will tell you. »

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The contrast is striking between the general crisis meeting convened on Monday, November 15, by the National Bar Council (CNB) and its ordinary general meeting, which was held four days later. Monday emerges from a heated debate a motion asking the Keeper of the Seals to purely and simply strike out Article 3 of the bill behind which a threat to professional secrecy is denounced. Friday, not a question is asked on the subject to Jérôme Gavaudan, the president of the CNB, however harshly outvoted by his peers, a few days earlier.

“The legal profession has a Thermidorian governance where the moderates are never right”, analyzes a regular at meetings with representatives of lawyers at the Ministry of Justice. The compromise proposed on the contentious article by Mr. Dupond-Moretti in an open letter addressed to the profession, on Friday November 12, had received the favors of the three highest representatives of the profession, Jérôme Gavaudan, at the head of the representative body of 70,000 lawyers, Hélène Fontaine, President of the Conference of Presidents of the Bar, and Olivier Cousi, President of the Bar of Paris, representative of a bar to which more than 40% of the country’s lawyers are registered. Yet it is a completely different message that they had to convey to the minister on the eve of the final vote on the bill.


The current Minister of Justice, who has never had union fiber and claims to have never committed to the orders of his former profession, sees in the outvoting of the Gavaudan-Fontaine-Cousi trio “an ubiquitous situation, the result of a problem of representation of the profession”. Above all, this episode has brought to light the differences between the major business law firms in Paris and Hauts-de-Seine and the legal lawyers who travel to the criminal or civil chambers of the courts.

A fierce opponent of the case law of the Court of Cassation on the professional secrecy of the lawyer, Mr. Dupond-Moretti had promised, as soon as he entered the government, in July 2020, to restore it by law. Its bill adopted on April 14 in the Council of Ministers plans to include in the preliminary article of the code of criminal procedure the guarantee of “respect for professional secrecy of the defence”alongside other measures for the protection of these auxiliaries of justice, for example in terms of searches or access to communications data (fadettes).

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