I assume the following:

  • A lawyer employed by the Government of Canada (GC) has an attorney-client relationship with GC.
  • The "attorney" is the lawyer, the "client" is "Government of Canada".
  • The lawyer owes GC the duty of loyalty.
  • The lawyer owes GC the duty of confidentiality.
  • The lawyer owes GC the duty of competence.
  • The 3 duties above have no "expiration" date, they survive the lawyer's employment by GC.

The questions:

  • It it possible for the lawyer to ever claim, following the event of his taking GC employment, that he does not have a relationship with GC ?
  • Is it possible for the lawyer's 3 duties to be nullified in some way? How?
  • Are there technical differences between a GC lawyer's professional obligations and any other (non GC) lawyer's ?
  • Can the GC expect that the fired / retired / resigned lawyer will continue to act in GC's interest, and not against GC's interest (assuming conflicts of interest are resolved via consent)?
  • Can the lawyer act against GC's interest, in some matter he has GC confidential info, but ethically justify it in some way (eg, sorry bro, retired / fired / resigned / other?).

In short, can it be said "Once a government lawyer, always a government lawyer"? Can the government expect this lawyer not to turn against it, under any circumstances in the future?

1 Answer 1


Some of your premises are not as absolute as you assume. See the provisions of the BC Law Society's Code of Professional Conduct, for example. The commentary to s. 3.4-2 ("Consent") anticipates that for sophisticated clients, like a government, consent may be implied to act in scenarios that would otherwise be considered a conflict of interest.

Even the somewhat more absolute restriction at s. 3.4-10 against acting against a former client does not apply to unrelated matters where the lawyer does not have any confidential information relevant to that matter.

The most absolute of the restrictions is that the lawyer can never disclose confidential information of the client's unless expressly or impliedly consented to (s. 3.3-1).

Consistent with the above, the Canadian Bar Association suggests:

To avoid conflicts of interest, government lawyers who stop working for a public body should not act for a client who has a connection to any matter for which they had substantial responsibility prior to leaving office. Similarly, lawyers who acquire confidential information while holding public office should keep such information confidential after leaving their government role.

  • I think I may have asked the question poorly. I attempted to fix it. I appreciate your time, knowledge and insight @Jen Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 3:20
  • Does this mean that the 3 duties are permanent and cannot be nullified? Consent and non-possession of confidential info seem to be tools that help the lawyer perform his duties, but do nothing to absolve them. Thus, in a situation where consent is obtained, and relevant confidential info is in play, the duty of confidentiality applies for ever, as do the other two (loyalty, competence)? Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 13:22
  • Does this answer mean that the duty of loyalty cannot be ended/anulled, but there are workarounds like obtaining consent if there is a conflict of interest, and keeping confidential info confidential? Commented Sep 22, 2023 at 22:24

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