The European General Court has held that employed lawyers do not
have the right to represent their in-house clients before it.
Building on the controversial rejection of the application of
legal privilege to communications with in-house counsel in
the Akzo case (14 September 2010, full
report not yet published), the Court has decided that even where an
employed lawyer is a registered member of a national bar and has a
right of audience in his or her home state, the fact that the
in-house lawyer is employed by an internal client deprives the
in-house lawyer of the independence required to represent that
client before the European courts.
The first instance decision – now on appeal to the
European Court of Justice – (Order of the General Court
(Seventh Chamber) of 23 May 2011, Prezes Urzędu
Komunikacji Elektronicznej v European Commission, Case T-226) concerns Article 19 of the Statute
of the Court. This says that whilst the European institutions
themselves and Member States may be represented by an
"agent" who may be assisted by a lawyer, other parties
must be represented only by a lawyer. The lawyer must have the
right to appear before the courts of a member state.
The case in question was an appeal against a Commission decision
where the Polish appellant was not a state or European institution,
and was represented by two employed lawyers with the title
radca prawny (analogous to an English solicitor or French
former conseil juridique). Even though a radca
prawny does have a right of audience (except in certain
criminal matters) before the Polish courts, the European Court of
First Instance held that the fact that the Polish lawyers were
employed meant they could not represent their client before it.
If upheld by the European Court of Justice, the ruling will
further exemplify the outdated and destructive attitude of the
European jurisdictions to the important role of in-house
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
There has been much press comment recently about the nature of "offshore companies" and in particular those incorporated in the British Virgin Islands which has only limited requirements for provision of any company information.
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).