The legal system in Egypt is a system of civil law and is based on a system of codified rules. Shari’a law (‘Islamic religious law’) and the Napoleonic Code are merged in the Egyptian Civil Code (which forms the basis of the French Civil Code). Many other Middle Eastern countries’ civil codes have modelled the Egyptian Civil Code on their legal structure.
In the Egyptian courts, there is no proven set of binding precedents; previous judicial decisions do, however, have persuasive force. The lower courts are, in fact, both legally and technically bound by the higher courts’ standards and precedents.
The definitions of legal professional privilege and “without prejudice” communications do not exist per se in many civil law jurisdictions in the region, including Egypt. Accordingly, the parties have the right to use any document that could support their position. However, lawyers in Egypt would be bound by confidentiality obligations; in many cases, these responsibilities incorporate principles similar to legal professional privilege.
In Egypt, the common law principle of standard disclosure is not applicable, which helps preserve sensitive internal information. However, if it can be argued that the document in question is material and important to the conflict, a party can petition the court to order the disclosure of a particular document.
Without the consent of the client, legal professional privilege prevents all correspondence between a professional legal attorney and their clients from being released. The right is for the good of the customer only, and not the lawyer. The aim of this legal principle is to preserve one’s access to the justice system by ensuring that individuals can report to their legal advisers all relevant information without worrying that this disclosure will have negative consequences or prejudice them in the future.
If the attorney can display that evidence or information, a lawyer ceases to be bound by the provisions of legal professional privilege protection:
At the time it was revealed to the prosecutor, it was in the public domain;
Subsequent to the time it was revealed to the lawyer by the lawyer without fault, it entered the public domain; or
At the time it was revealed to the lawyer, evidenced by contemporaneous documents, it was in the hands of the lawyer free of any duty of trust.
A lawyer may reveal such documents/information that would otherwise be covered by lawyer-client privilege to the degree that such disclosure is needed by a valid order of a court with jurisdiction of another governmental body, given that the lawyer provides the client with fair prior written notice of such disclosure and makes a reasonable effort to obtain a protective order to prevent such disclosure from being disclosed.
It is advisable that, if the parties attempt to resolve their dispute in Egypt, they should qualify for some sort of contact with a declaration that any offer or communication does not constitute an admission of liability. An assurance that any information found in such communications would not be used as evidence should also be sought by the parties.
The same privilege rights do not tend to extend to in-house legal counsel representing the company’s officers, directors or staff, since they are not independent of the client. It is, however, possible to enter into a confidentiality arrangement between the employer and the employed in-house legal counsel to protect this information.