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Unveiling the Shadows: Legal Services Board exposes misuse of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)

Unveiling the Shadows: Legal Services Board exposes misuse of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)


Legal Services Board publishes evidence of misuse of NDAs, revealing imbalances of power and access to justice issues

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has brought to light concerning findings regarding the use and misuse of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in a summary report based on evidence collected from respondents to a call for evidence last year. This report aims to contribute to ongoing discussions about the ethical conduct and practices of lawyers involved in advising and facilitating NDAs, emphasising the potential overuse and misuse of these agreements to cover up misconduct, intimidate, or silence individuals.

Key themes emerging from the submissions include notable imbalances of power in various contexts such as employer/employee relationships, divorce proceedings, and consumer disputes. The evidence also raises concerns about potential access to justice issues, particularly for individuals involved in employment disputes who may lack access to legal advice. The report highlights a lack of public understanding about legal rights and NDAs, particularly regarding protected disclosures and the covering up of allegedly illegal conduct, including unlawful harassment and discrimination.

The LSB received over 100 responses, including contributions from 19 organisations comprising legal regulators, industry bodies, charities, and interest groups. Additionally, 74 individuals across England and Wales shared their personal experiences with NDAs. Instances of NDA misuse were identified across multiple industries, including entertainment, higher education, professional services (including the legal profession), charities, the public sector, and the private sector.

The evidence gathered will be incorporated into the LSB's gap analysis, aimed at assessing whether the existing regulatory framework adequately addresses such unethical conduct or if further regulatory intervention is necessary to support legal professionals in upholding high standards of professional ethical conduct.

Chief Executive Matthew Hill expressed gratitude to those who shared their experiences, acknowledging the inherently secretive nature of this area of legal practice. The report's recurring themes underscore the potentially devastating impact of NDA misuse on individuals' lives.

This evidence forms a crucial part of the LSB's broader initiative on professional ethics and the rule of law, aligning with the challenges outlined in their Reshaping Legal Services strategy. The LSB aims to foster a legal sector that provides high-quality legal services and upholds strong professional ethics, with the report serving as a pivotal component of the evidence base for potential adaptations to the regulatory framework.