Today is not a great day to be an in-house lawyer.
As we report, the European Court of Justice has ruled that in-house counsel have no right to professional legal privilege in cartel investigations carried out by the European Commission.
Not that in-house lawyers should be too surprised. The case has been discussed by the in-house community for months (see story), and Advocate General Juliane Kokott’s legal opinion in April more than hinted that the court would not overturn the lower court ruling.
Nevertheless, the conclusion made by the court that in-house lawyers are not fully independent of the company in which they work, won’t do much to strengthen their professional standing.
Nor will it do much for effective lawyering. The jurisprudential arguments may rage on, but one thing is certain: companies will have to seek more external advice from lawyers less familiar with their business - thereby driving up costs.
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