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Slater and Gordon released two public statements about these matters in August 2012. Following further recent reporting, particularly over the weekend and again today, we believe it is necessary to make a further statement.
Since August we have dealt with numerous requests from former clients involved in these matters. We have sought to address those requests consistently with our professional obligations.
Slater and Gordon has not withheld or delayed the release of any files in our possession to any former clients. Any suggestion that Slater and Gordon has acted in anyway other than to uphold its professional obligations in relation to these matters is wrong and we reject it.
It is important to place these matters in a proper context.
First, the relevant events occurred some 20 years ago. The people who were acting for the former clients involved at that time, left Slater and Gordon in 1995 and 1996.
Second, there is no reason why any documents or files relating to this matter would have been retained by Slater and Gordon given that standard legal practice is to destroy files after seven years, unless there is some regulatory, express instruction or other reason not to do so.
Moreover, when clients retain new lawyers and direct us to send the new lawyers their file, or when clients make a request to have their files returned direct to them or their nominee, we are obliged to release those files in accordance with the client direction. Copies of these files are not ordinarily retained.
Third, since these matters have come under intense media scrutiny, Slater and Gordon has undertaken extensive archival searches to identify whether the firm still holds any relevant files or documents. Where such files or documents have been identified, they have been made available to any clients who have made a request for them.
Self evidently, we are only able to deal with the materials and documents that are in our possession or under our control and we are not able to comment on documents or materials which are not in our possession. Our professional obligations as legal practitioners means that we are not at liberty to discuss the confidential nature of our communications with former clients.
Like every law firm, Slater and Gordon is not able to release any files or documents in its possession without client approval, because to do so would be a breach of our professional obligations. These are obligations that govern all lawyers and are fundamental to our legal system. All clients who retain a lawyer rightly have an expectation that communications with their lawyer and any documentary material generated as a result is and will remain confidential, unless they instruct otherwise.
Slater and Gordon, founded in 1935, is now a law firm employing more than 1700 staff across more than 80 locations throughout Australia and the United Kingdom. We are very proud of the history of our firm and the many successes our dedicated staff have achieved on behalf of our clients. We remain focussed on the tens of thousands of clients who put their trust in us to assist them with their legal problems in Australia and the UK.
Having released this media statement today, it is our intention to make no further statements, nor to respond to further requests from the media in relation to these matters.