I have an email address from a public provider consisting of my first name and surname - I routinely get a lot of email for other people with the same name, sometimes I respond with a polite "sorry, you've been given a wrong email address", most of the time I bin the emails.

I received an email recently from a US law firm with privileged documents attached - one of the documents is basically a list of things for the "other me" to lie about in a deposition.

Not "skirting the truth", not "avoiding topics", actual "you need to lie about this, deny it completely or say something which is untrue" advice from the law firm.

Should I report this to the relevant legal association or body? Or should I simply bin the email and forget about it?

I am not in the same country as the law firm (they are in the US).

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    Congratulations, you caught a crooked lawyer. Now go bust him! The less of them wandering around making trouble for us ordinary decent folk, the better. :D Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 0:01
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    I definitely encourage you to forward it to as many people as possible. Anyone breaking the law so blatantly must be caught. Ignoring the mistrial I would want the attorney to lose his license for such crimes.
    – dsollen
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 20:37

2 Answers 2


Suborning perjury is a criminal offense, at the federal level under 18 USC 1622, and is especially bad for a law firm to do. An attorney has a duty to not allow a client to lie in a legal proceeding, so instructing a client to lie is worse. Legally speaking, you are not compelled to turn them in to the (local US) authorities, unless your country has some odd law requiring citizens to report crimes in foreign countries. Two things can possibly come out of forwarding such an email to the authorities. One is that they will gain access to privileged communication, which they may not be able to use against the client. The other is that they will have evidence of the attorney committing a crime, which is not privileged. See Clark v. United States, 289 U.S. 1:

There is a privilege protecting communications between attorney and client. The privilege takes flight if the relation is abused. A client who consults an attorney for advice that will serve him in the commission of a fraud will have no help from the law. He must let the truth be told.

We take no stance on moral questions as to whether you should or should not.

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    Is there any chance the OP could themselves be doing something illegal by sharing this with the authorities? I can imagine it may be illegal to reproduce certain documents.
    – Vality
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 23:00
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    @Vality: there is no possibility that alerting the Bar Association (or equivalent) to a possible infraction is illegal. If you send the papers to the court that could conceivably cause a mistrial; but annoying an American judge is not illegal if you are not in the US. Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 23:21
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    It is unimaginable that forwarding an email which provides evidence of a crime would be a crime, even if the author wrote in bit letters CONFIDENTIAL: DO NOT DISCLOSE.
    – user6726
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 23:22
  • @user6726 Email disclaimers are of only minimal legal effect anyway without some kind of pre-existing contract with the recipient. Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 2:33
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    @AJMansfield Email disclaimers are promoted by Big Paper so when you print your emails they end up barely on two pieces of paper. The last line is right at the top of the second page and usually says "please consider the environment before printing this email."
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 4:15

Please keep in mind that once they run into problems they will probably find out that they used the wrong email and that it was you who forwarded the information. So depending on the level of criminality you should also assess how that could fire back.

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    Can you think of a plausible way in which reporting a crime could "backfire" on a person? Or are you speaking of black-ops type vengeance?
    – user6726
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 15:00
  • Thought more about registering the email for a lot of newsletters, but they already do illegal stuff, so wouldn't put "black-ops" off the table either, yeah.
    – justin
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 0:58

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