Law Society sets up lobbying working party
The Law Society has set up a working party to address government plans to force law firms to disclose the identities of their lobbying clients, after the coalition government said it will establish a register of lobbyists in a bill to be introduced next year.
The solicitors’ group, chaired by Law Society vice-president John Wotton, will consider government proposals to create a statutory register of parliamentary lobbyists. Chancery Lane will hold a discussion forum for senior practitioners in the new year to help prepare a policy position.
At the Hansard Society annual lecture in November, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said that a third bill on political and constitutional reform, to be introduced next year, will establish a statutory register of lobbyists. It is anticipated that law firms will be obliged to enter their lobbying clients’ names on the register.
It is understood that the government will introduce a green paper on the issue in February.
At present, law firms’ public affairs practices say they cannot disclose their lobbying clients’ names in registers of interests because to do so would breach client confidentiality rules.
Wotton said: ‘Public affairs is a very important area of work for some law firms. We support the principle of transparency when it comes to lobbying work.
‘The duty of confidentiality is at the core. We are concerned that a clear distinction is drawn between lawyers acting as lobbyists, and lawyers providing legal advice and representation.’
Wotton said that the Society’s working party will be informed by the European Commission’s work on its own register of interests.