Dear ACC Europe Members,
It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Spring edition of the ACC Europe newsletter. Of course, everyone is excited about the upcoming ACC Europe Annual Conference in Cascais, Portugal, 7-9 May. This year’s conference will offer 18 panel sessions and will, of course, provide a unique opportunity to network with fellow in-house counsel from around the continent. But ACC Europe is more than its Annual Conference, and I want to share with you some important new work that ACC is engaging in to elevate the role and status of in-house counsel in Europe.
As you are well aware, many countries in Europe do not grant equal status to in-house counsels than to lawyers in private practice. The European Commission does not recognize the ability of in-house counsel to assert legal professional privilege or exercise professional secrecy in the context of competition law proceedings, and the Court of Justice of the European Union has validated this position.
ACC’s leadership has long seen this as a priority issue for in-house counsel in Europe, and in 2015, ACC retained a public affairs consultant based in Brussels to raise the profile of in-house counsel and the privilege issue within Europe. As an ACC Europe board member and chair of the ACC Europe Advocacy Committee, I have been working with ACC’s consultant and staff to direct these efforts.
In 2016, we saw unprecedented growth of ACC’s influence in Europe. We have worked to build relationships with other bar societies with common advocacy interests such as the European Company Lawyers Association (ECLA), Deutscher Anwaltverein (DAV), Institut de Juristes d’Enterprise (IBJ), and the Law Society of England and Wales. Also, ACC and ACC Europe commented on legislative and regulatory issues in a variety of jurisdictions, including:
• Submitting a joint letter with ECLA to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) regarding the ability of in-house counsel to represent their companies before the court, which was followed up by a dialogue with the CJEU where it accepted that in-house counsel may be qualified to plead in front of the CJEU when he has represented his company in the national proceeding where local court refers prejudicial questions to the CJEU.
• Writing to Swiss Council President Christa Markwalder in support of her legislative proposal to extend privilege to in-house counsel in Switzerland. The proposal has made it past initial votes in the Swiss parliament and we expect further activity later in the year.
• Supporting the efforts of a group of Hungarian in-house counsel to have Hungary recognize in-house counsel as a licensed legal profession. ACC’s letter received an encouraging response from the Hungarian Ministry of Justice, and we understand that a proposal will be forthcoming from the government,
• Participating in the public consultation on the proposal from the United Kingdom Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to include the head of legal in a senior manager regulatory regime that could compromise in-house counsel independence and legal professional privilege, which is still ongoing.
Late last year, in the context of a European Commission investigation on the issue of procuradores in the Spanish legal system, ACC Europe shared its concerns about the reservation of activity that exist in their favor in order to act as representative of the parties in front of the Courts, its incompatibility with the lawyer profession, and the existence of fixed fees that the procuradores should comply with that may be highly disproportionate to the value of the services provided.
I look forward to continuing to lend ACC Europe’s voice on policy issues at both the national and EU level. It has been rewarding to advocate for the in-house bar in Europe, and I am inspired by how much we have accomplished in only a year’s time. Whether engaging with other associations, meeting with local officials, or organizing on the EU level, the work we do in educating policy makers has real-world effects on how in-house counsel are perceived and recognized by the law. Going forward in 2017, it is exciting to consider the unique opportunity we have to act as leaders in representing the in-house community here at ACC Europe.
For any members wishing to be more involved in our advocacy efforts, I welcome you to reach out with your insights or to consider serving as a country representative.
I look forward to seeing you in Portugal!
AGC for Regions Litigation, HP Inc.