Legal fee totals tend to be neutral information

Complaint: Blue Water Bridge Canada withheld in its entirety a cover letter and statement of account from a legal firm, citing section 23.

Investigation: The OIC disagreed that solicitor-client privilege applied to the cover letter and urged the institution to release the total fees billed (such as appeared on the statement of account), since disclosing them would not reveal information subject to solicitor-client privilege.

Outcome: The institution released both the cover letter and the billing totals.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • Certain administrative information, such as the total or aggregate amount billed on a legal matter, tends to be neutral information that would not lead to any privileged information being revealed. This kind of information should be disclosed.
  • This is also true of legal fee totals associated with ongoing litigation. The Department of Justice Canada attempted to withhold such information in two instances but released it following OIC investigations.
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