Last Sunday Harry Potter author JK Rowling was revealed by the Sunday Times to have been the writer of a novel written by ‘previously unknown’ author Robert Galbraith.

In the course of this week it has been disclosed that the information came from a surprising source, JK Rowling’s solicitors, a well-known London firm specialising in representing clients in the world of entertainment.  It turns out that one of the partners in this law firm had told the secret to his wife, who in turn had told her best friend. The best friend was the source of the Sunday Times story.

You can read more on the BBC News website.

I am sure that the partner concerned is mortified. One can imagine the potential damage to his firm’s reputation: high profile clients will surely want to be certain that their affairs are being handled in a discreet and confidential manner.

Client confidentiality is one of a number of principles that are drummed into solicitors. Indeed, one of the outcomes which the Solicitors Regulation Authority requires solicitors to achieve is that

you keep the affairs of clients confidential unless disclosure is required or permitted by law or the client consents

We were talking about this in the office.  I am trying very hard not to take a “holier than thou” attitude, but I am very sure that we would have been able to keep Ms Rowling’s secret to ourselves.  This is not a case of thinking “there but for the grace of God …”  We are all used to acting for clients who quite properly require their matters to be kept confidential. So as a solicitor, I am very surprised by the news that the source of the information that ‘Robert Galbraith’ is in fact JK Rowling is Ms Rowling’s solicitor.


UPDATE 31 July 2013

Today the BBC reports that Ms Rowling’s lawyers have made a “substantial” donation to a charity of JK Rowling’s choice in settlement of Ms Rowling’s claim against them.