Lawyer jumps ship from wife to husband in $100m divorce

by Samantha Woodhill22 Jun 2016
The lawyer for the wife amidst a $100m divorce has jumped ship to the law firm representing the husband.

The wife, who can’t be named, sought to protest against the move in the West Australian Family Court, saying her former lawyer – who also can’t be named – knows personal information that could now fall into her husband’s hands.

The lawyer, who has worked on the case as a junior with a team of lawyers since January last year, denied she had access to deeply personal information, in what is one of Australia’s most expensive divorces in history.  The wife has argued that she was present during discussions between the more senior members of the legal team and therefore exposed to “matters relating to [her] emotional state and personality”.

A senior member of the wife’s firm told the court he had spoken to the lawyer “on a number of occasions about the wife’s emotional state and personality and potential frailties”.

According to a report by The Australian, the husband is contesting the wife’s contributions made to the family’s fortune and over the living arrangements on their son.

The wife sought to have her husband’s firm prevented from acting for him, saying, “Ms K [the lawyer] has had access to my files and been privy to discussions which contain confidential information… I am concerned that having met and interacted with me [she] may also have knowledge of my emotional state and other matters very relevant to our son, who is almost eight years of age”.

Judge John Walters said while care must be taken while handling confidential information, the was no “absolute rule” a lawyer who acted for a client in a particular matter “must not act against that client in the same or any other matter”.

The husband’s legal team argued that they had no confidential documents that the lawyer had handled and that she wouldn’t be working on the case.  The entire staff had been instructed not to discuss the case with her.

Walters said that  lawyers often “learn a great deal about a client’s personality, weaknesses and strengths, honesty or perhaps dishonesty” while handling their cases, but he said it was not “obvious” Ms K had received confi­dential information, and she had given the court an undertaking she would not share what she knew with the husband’s legal team, The Australian reported.