FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
October 9, 1962
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
A lawyer is not required nor permitted to disclose to the Internal Revenue Service the name and
address of a client at whose request the lawyer framed a hypothetical question and obtained an
answer and ruling from the Internal Revenue Service.
Chairman Holcomb stated the opinion of the committee:
A member of The Florida Bar requested an opinion from the Committee on
Professional Ethics as to whether his office is required or permitted to disclose to
the Internal Revenue Service the name and address of a client, at whose request
he framed a hypothetical question and obtained an answer from the Internal
Revenue Service. Now we understand the Internal Revenue Service is demanding
of the lawyer the name and address of this client on the supposition that the client
may be involved in some violation of federal law which the Internal Revenue
Service would like to follow up.
It is the unanimous opinion of this Committee that the lawyer is neither required to nor
should, and that he cannot ethically disclose to the Internal Revenue Service the name and
address of his client. He is bound by the confidences of the client, and it is under this privilege of
not divulging his confidences that the client is able to make full disclosure.
On page 136 of Drinker on Legal Ethics, it is stated that a lawyer may not disclose “his
client’s funds or his whereabouts. . . .”
The only way that we can conceive that would allow disclosure of the name and address
of the client would be with the client’s consent, and we would suggest that that consent be
obtained in writing for protection.
Considering Canon 37, Drinker on Legal Ethics further states at page 138: “A lawyer
may not inform the collector of a failure by his client to disclose income, or of his client’s
address. . . .”
This opinion, of course, does not encompass any thought that an attorney and his client
together conspire to defraud the government or commit any offense, but only covers the situation
where the client discloses confidential matters to his attorney.