Half of in-house lawyers face having to advise on ethically or legally debatable actions, while a similar number complain that actions are sometimes taken against their advice on “legally important matters”, a major report has revealed.
The Financial Conduct Authority is to consult on whether general counsel and other in-house lawyers in banks, building societies and credit unions fall within its new accountability regime for senior managers. The FCA said some general counsel were concerned about being forced to disclose privileged information.
More than three quarters of general counsel lack separate budgets for process and technology services, despite exactly the same percentage identifying a “compelling need” for them, a survey has found. “To have a compelling need, but have no budgetary control is potentially ‘creek, canoe, no paddle’ territory”, it said.
In-house lawyers, “bashed up” by justice secretary Michael Gove over the issue of pro bono, should have an “open debate” about making it compulsory, the chair of the GC100 Group has said. He was speaking during a panel debate to mark the start of National Pro Bono Week.
There is evidence to suggest that some of the largest law firms are making errors on the ethical approach of their corporate lawyers, while solicitors’ code of conduct is “hopelessly silent” on the problems of commercial practice, according to a leading academic.
Local authority legal departments are being forced to set up alternative business structures by restrictive rules on in-house lawyers, leading to the “privatisation” of public sector legal services, the director of Essex Legal Services has claimed.
Peninsula Business Services, one of the largest unregulated providers of legal services in the country, has blamed Solicitors Regulation Authority rules for scuppering its plans to set up an alternative business structure. The company provides employment law, HR and health and safety advice to over 30,000 small businesses in the UK.
A former Addleshaw Goddard partner has set up a website to help in-house lawyers and law firms work together more effectively. Richard Fleetwood is working on GC Hub with the former head of legal at Rolls-Royce.
Leading legal academics are developing a blueprint for ethical in-house practice, amid growing evidence that general counsel are under increasing pressure to compromise their professional ethics.
Unnecessary restrictions on in-house lawyers could “impose costs and red tape, frustrate innovation and adversely affect access to justice”, the Legal Services Board has argued.