The Court of Justice of the EU’s judgement in the case of Akzo Nobel Chemicals Limited and Akcros Chemicals Limited v European Commission handed down on Tuesday means that, in EU competition law investigations, legal advice from an in-house lawyer is not privileged and not protected. EU investigators will be able to seize and access this advice, irrespective of the status of the lawyer’s advice in their national legal system.
We argued that in-house lawyers are the front line guarantor of compliance and that the Court should recognise how the role of the in-house lawyers has developed since this issue was last before the Court.
The role of in house lawyers is still a controversial issue on the continent but, over the course of time, EU policy makers may well come to appreciate the great value that such lawyers bring to both the public and private sectors. In-house lawyers are well placed to give expert advice to colleagues; they know their company and of course, good legal advice ensures that companies behave correctly and legally and I believe ethically.