You may wonder what the secretary general of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) does all day. This is a proper question, since solicitors contribute to my pay. So here goes, with all events taken from last week. If you want to see how I am dressed, click here, which will also show you at what pace I issue my excellent advice.
‘I am the very model of a modern secretary general,I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,I know the ways of Europe, directives quite historical,From Portugal to Latvia, in order categorical.’
Take the Professional Qualifications Directive (2005/36/EC), which is currently being amended. One of the proposed amendments from the European Commission seeks to include notaries within the scope of the directive. If that were to happen, then for the first time ever notaries would be governed by the free movement provisions of an EU directive. For a long time, notaries argued that they were excluded from free movement, but a court case (C 47/08, C 50/08, C 51/08, C 52/08, C 53/08, C 54/08 and C 61/08) in the European Court of Justice settled that against their wishes.
The position now is as follows: the European Commission wants them fully included in the amended directive; the European Parliament wants them to be partially included (meaning that a notary candidate could file an application to establish in another member state, but that the freedom of service provisions would not apply to the supply of public services); and the Council wants them fully excluded. What should be the position of the CCBE, particularly in view of the fact that our members have varying relations with their national chambers of notaries at local level? There is not much time to decide, since the three institutions are meeting on the matter in the coming days. Here is my advice:
‘I know our members’ history, Germany’s and Slovenian;They expect us to consult them, and not attempt to lean on them,They fear we might be guilty of the sins of Heliogabalus,So please research their views, or there’ll be conflicts quite parabolous.’
Technology plays a daily more significant role in our work. Two examples arise from this week. We have become concerned about the proliferation of national rules on government access to data, and its impact on legal professional privilege. The access includes snooping by all types of law enforcement and other government agencies. Everyone immediately thinks of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 as the chief wrongdoer, but an interesting paper by Hogan Lovells shows that many governments are as bad or worse. Do we need to amend our guidance to lawyers on cloud computing because of this widespread government interference in data, to make sure lawyers are more aware of it?
Second, we are building a lawyer e-identity system, funded by the European Commission, to assist with cross-border electronic transactions within the e-CODEX project. Do we build it on the basis of digital certificates? How can we ensure a balance of competing interests: that whatever takes place in the virtual world does not demand higher standards than the paper world, while at the same time ensuring that there is security and reliability in remote, automated transactions.
This is my role, straight from Gilbert and Sullivan, without any need of amendment:
‘I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news,With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.’
It doesn’t end there. The Financial Action Task Force has just sent around a draft paper on what they call typologies of lawyer vulnerability to money laundering, and wants our views. This paper was expected, and outlines the kinds of cases in which lawyers are most at risk of being used for money laundering and terrorist financing purposes. There will be a meeting next month with the principal players, including the CCBE, to discuss it further. The paper is confidential at this stage.
You can see why I end my advice in the following way:
‘So I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,And tell you ev'ry detail of Caractacus's uniform:In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,I am the very model of a modern secretary general.’
Jonathan Goldsmith is secretary general of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, which represents about one million European lawyers through its member bars and law societies. He blogs weekly for the Gazette on European affairs