The European Parliament has agreed to amend its lobbying guidelines to distinguish between political petitioning and giving legal advice.
The amendment changes the definition of lobbying to include lawyers when their purpose is to “influence policy rather than to provide legal assistance and defence in legal proceedings or to give legal advice”.
Law Society president Andrew Holroyd said the amendment provides better clarity for the legal profession while making the point that there is a balance between influencing policy and providing legal advice.
“The previous wording was intended to ensure that the definition of lobbying also covered the provision of legal advice by a lawyer to a client,” he explained.
"The provision of legal advice, and the ability of the client to receive such advice in confidence, is a fundamental principle of European legal systems that deserves recognition in this context."
The voluntary European Union code recommends that lobbyists register with political institutions and that they should declare their interests, clients and financial information about sources of income or funding.
The concern under these guidelines was whether this included legal advice given to clients, which would have gone against the solicitor’s code of conduct.