Lawyering for Children: Confidentiality Meets Context

53 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2007 Last revised: 17 Sep 2015

See all articles by Peter Margulies

Peter Margulies

Roger Williams University School of Law

Date Written: January 27, 2007


The lawyer's role in representing children has inspired discussion and debate for over a quarter of a century. The scope of the lawyer's duty of confidentiality to a child client is a crucial component of that debate. Advocates of a best interests approach generally favor either a relaxed duty of confidentiality or recognition of the lawyer's ability to advocate for a position against the child client's wishes. Champions of a zealous lawyering conception favor a more stringent duty of confidentiality. Each camp must also grapple with ethical rules that permit a lawyer to act to protect the interests of a client of questionable capacity. This article argues that lawyers for children should consider the local competencies of all of the players in the child welfare system, including courts, child welfare agencies, and lawyers themselves. Based on this assessment, lawyers should apply pragmatic criteria for disclosure, centering on the likelihood and gravity of future harm, the child's understanding of the consequences of the decision, and the availability of alternatives.

Keywords: Professional Responsibility, Duty of Confidentiality, Juvenile Law, Family Law

Suggested Citation

Margulies, Peter, Lawyering for Children: Confidentiality Meets Context (January 27, 2007). St. John's Law Review, Vol. 81, Pg. 601, 2007, Roger Williams Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 40, Available at SSRN:

Peter Margulies (Contact Author)

Roger Williams University School of Law ( email )

10 Metacom Avenue
Bristol, RI 02809
United States

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