Legal professional protection for in-house lawyers becoming a global trend
The European arm of the Association of Corporate Counsel has welcomed the decision of Switzerland’s National Council to approve extending legal professional secrecy protections to corporate counsel.
The move, ACC Europe said in a statement, is an “important and long-overdue step towards increasing the effectiveness of in-house lawyers in assuring compliance and promoting the competitiveness of Swiss companies worldwide”.
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The measure, it noted, is part of a larger revision of the Code of Civil Procedure currently before Parliament.
This protection of their professional secrecy would apply to any legal department whose head lawyer fulfils the professional requirements to practise in his or her country of origin, ACC Europe continued, with Spain and the Netherlands also recently affirming important aspects of in-house legal privilege with regard to both national and foreign lawyers.
Such moves also follow the introduction of similar legal professional protections in Germany, Belgium and Singapore.
“The lack of legal professional protection for legal advice severely undermined general counsel’s ability to promote compliance and left multinational companies headquartered in Switzerland at a considerable disadvantage internationally,” said ACC Europe country representative in Switzerland and Gategroup GC (corporate and compliance) Christian Haitz.
“It was time for Switzerland to join the more than 50 per cent of European nations that recognize these fundamental and critical protections. I thank Parliament for moving this proposal forward and hope that it is adopted quickly.”
ACC Europe board director and chair of advocacy Javier Ramirez added: “The protection of professional secrecy for in-house lawyers is nowadays more necessary than ever so they can effectively counsel their corporate clients. Lack of legal professional protection for in-house lawyers has a detrimental effect on corporate compliance.
“Many other countries throughout Europe and the world provide this indispensable protection to ensure that trusted and open conversations can be held between in-house lawyers and their clients in the provision of legal assistance.
“These latest discussions in Parliament are encouraging developments, and ACC Europe urges all parties involved to remain focused and finalise robust protection as soon as possible. This recognition will facilitate a level playing field for the Swiss business community on the international stage, especially as compared with most developed economies that are members of the OECD.”