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A group of five French law firms, led by Jeantet Associés and August & Debouzy, have established an association designed to professionalise political lobbying.
The two firms have combined with Granrut Avocats, Lexidia and Vogel & Vogel to form the Association des Avocats Lobbyistes (AAL – Lobbying Lawyers Association). The aim of the association is to promote the role of lawyers in lobbying activities and contribute to the professionalisation of lobbying.
AAL, which is in the process of registration, will be open to all commercial law firms, commercial lawyers and in-house counsel involved or who want to be involved in lobbying activities.
Philippe Portier, a partner at Jeantet who is taking up the role of treasurer for AAL, said: “French lawyers have always done lobbying activities in the course of their usual business.”
He explained that lobbying the government has been a key part of legal activity for many years owing to the close connections in France between state and business, but in the past lobbying activities were done “more discreetly”.
Portier said this kind of behind-the-scenes lobbying was at its height during the 1990s, but dropped off during the 2000s.
The regulatory avalanche now coming from the EU and the French government meant that lobbying activity was now growing again. Portier said clients were increasingly asking for their lawyers to get involved in the process.
“It’s getting more difficult to do business in France at the moment,” he said. “Our clients urge us to be more active in the area of lobbying. We think it’s not time for being discreet anymore.”
Vogel & Vogel partner Joseph Vogel added: “The multiplication of independent administrative authorities in France and Europe and the increase of their powers makes the recourse to lobbying indispensable because it’s perfectly adapted to the decision-making process of these developing bodies.”
Portier said AAL’s key aim was to show other lawyers that there was more to lobbying than “something you do on the phone with some guy you know”.
AAL will participate in research to further the best interests of their clients, presenting alternatives to pieces of regulation or legislation and talking to authorities where necessary.
Portier said lawyers’ skills and ability to suggest “concrete solutions” to problems were of use to public authorities as well as businesses.
According to Portier, AAL will be open to all lawyers in France, although he said the founding members expected more French firms to become involved than UK practices. Traditionally UK firms have shied away from lobbying, although a number of US firms are heavily involved in their home jurisdiction and overseas.
“Through the association we’d like to teach our fellow lawyers that first, lobbying is possible; that second, we should do it; third, how to do it; and fourth, how to do it in cooperation with others instead of on a standalone basis,” Portier concluded.
AAL’s founding committee includes Lexidia partner Régis Cusinberche as president and August & Debouzy’s Gilles August, Granrut partner Bruno Quint and Vogel as co- vice-presidents.