Gamlen Chemical Co (UK) Ltd v Rochem Ltd: CA 4 Dec 1979

Solicitors accepted instructions against a promise of sums on account of costs. After non-payment they began to apply to be removed from the record. The new solicitors sought transfer of the solicitors file, and obtained an order to that effect subject to an undertaking to maintain its condition and to respect the solicitors’ lien. The first firm appealed.
Held: The practice embodied in the order was appropriate. Where a solicitor discharged himself, a mandatory order should be available. Legal professional privilege will not be upheld if the relevant document came into being as a step in a criminal or illegal proceeding.
Templeman LJ explained why the normal response of the court, when faced with a solicitor who has discharged himself in the course of litigation, even where the solicitor is entitled to discharge himself, is to order the solicitor to hand over the client’s papers to the client’s new solicitors, subject to an undertaking from the new solicitors to preserve the lien of the original solicitor. This course is usually adopted ‘in order to save the client’s litigation from catastrophe’.
Goff LJ stated: ‘the court must in every case, of course, be satisfied that what is prima facie proved really is dishonest, and not merely disreputable or a failure to maintain good ethical standards and must bear in mind that legal professional privilege is a very necessary thing and is not lightly to be overthrown, but on the other hand, the interests of victims of fraud must not be overlooked. Each case depends on its own facts.’


Goff and Templeman LJJ


[1980] 1 WLR 614, [1980] 1 All ER 1049, [1983] RPC 1


England and Wales


ApprovedHeslop v Metcalfe 1837
The court referred to the practice that where a solicitor removed himself from a case, an order should be made for the transfer of his file of papers: ‘Undoubtedly, that doctrine may expose a solicitor to a very great inconvenience and hardship, if, . .
CitedHughes v Hughes 1958
Hodson LJ said: ‘There is no doubt that a solicitor who is discharged by his client during an action otherwise than for misconduct can retain any papers in the cause in his possession until the costs have been paid . . This rule applies, as the . .
CitedRobins v Goldingham 1872
Where a solicitor discharges himself in the course of an action, he should be subject to an order for the transfer of the papers subject to an order respecting his lien for any unpaid costs. . .
Appeal from (Dicta approved)Gamlen Chemical Co (UK) Ltd v Rochem Ltd 1983
Goulding J said: ‘For servants during their employment and in breach of their contractual duty of fidelity to their master to engage in a scheme, secretly using their master’s time and money, to take the master’s customers and employees and make . .

Cited by:

CitedIsmail and Another v Richards Butler (A Firm) QBD 23-Feb-1996
A solicitor’s lien on papers can be set aside by the court to allow litigation to proceed, where there was a continuing retainer, and the lien was with regard to concluded matters. However, the release of the papers would reduce the value of the . .
CitedFrench v Carter Lemon Camerons Llp CA 3-Sep-2012
The appellant had instructed the defendant solicitors in litigation. On beginning to act in person she sought an order to require the solicitors to deliver the case papers to her. They asserted a lien on them until their account was paid. She now . .
CitedWalsh Automation (Europe) Ltd v Bridgeman and others QBD 4-Jul-2002
Appeal from refusal of order for disclosure of legal advice given to a party. It was alleged that the defendant’s suggested attempt at fraud by means of a document drawn up by the solicitors would be revealed by disclosure of the advice given. . .
CitedX v Y Ltd (Practice and Procedure – Disclosure) EAT 9-Aug-2018
Iniquity surpasses legal advice privilege
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – Striking-out/dismissal
An Employment Judge struck out paragraphs of the Claimant’s claim as they depended on an email in respect of which legal advice privilege was claimed. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Company, Legal Professions, Evidence

Updated: 16 May 2022; Ref: scu.182182