Lawyers in Vietnam are subject to the following confidentiality obligation with his/her clients including:
- A lawyer is prohibited from disclosing information on cases, matters, clients that the lawyer has knowledge in the course of practicing except otherwise agreed by the clients or otherwise provided at law (e.g., the Penal Code 2015). Since this rule is carved out by “otherwise provided at law”, a lawyer cannot invoke this rule to avoid the request of providing information or testifying against his/her client in a criminal case;
- A lawyer must not use information on cases, matters, clients that the lawyer has knowledge in the course of practicing for purpose of violating benefits of the State, public benefits, lawful rights and benefits of organization, individuals, and agencies;
- A law firm must procure its lawyers and staffs not to disclose information on its cases, matters, clients; and
- Under Article 73.2 of the Criminal Proceedings Code 2015, a defense lawyer must not disclose information on a case or an offender that the defense lawyer has knowledge in the course of defending for the offender except otherwise agreed in writing by the offender and must not use such information for purpose of violating benefits of the State, public benefits, lawful rights and benefits of organization, individuals, and agencies. A defense lawyer may invoke this privilege to deny providing information or testifying against his/her client but it is not clear whether this privilege can protect him/her from a criminal charge for failure to report extremely serious crimes or crimes which fall within Chapter XIII (crimes relating to the national security) if such case is established.
A lawyer in Vietnam is required to practice either in a law firm or in his/her own personal capacity. Therefore, technically, an in-house lawyer working for a corporation may not be regarded as a lawyer.
This post is contributed by Tran Thi Ha Phuong, a legal intern at Venture North Law, and Ha Thi Dung, a partner at Venture North Law.