This cautionary note was included (in red, boldface type!) in one of the e-mail notices that go round at my firm, notifying lawyers of prospective clients and asking if there would be any conflicts in acting for them.
Some matters may be more sensitive or interesting or salacious or newsworthy than others, but as a matter of law and legal ethics they can’t be more (or less) confidential.
As lawyers we owe the same duty of confidentiality to each client, and the standard is as high as it gets.
As a matter of English grammar, the very confidential warning is as bad as it gets. It’s like saying something is very unique. It’s unique (or confidential) or it isn’t. These adjectives are absolutes.
Or, as a partner once said to me of a research task, ‘This is somewhat urgent’. I was about to reply, ‘Oh, so it isn’t urgent’, but, anticipating a sense-of-humour failure, kept quiet and just got on with the job.