Jonathan Goldsmith outlines the range of activities the EU is prepared to fund in the legal sector.
To those of you with hackles: prepare to raise them. I want to speak about EU funding, or, as eurosceptics prefer to call it, wasting British taxpayers’ money. You won’t be surprised to know that I think much good has come from EU expenditure, including infrastructure projects in many of the poorer member states.
I shall deal here with the money available for law-related initiatives. There are considerable funds for this, and some law firms supplement their work and income through European Commission tenders.
EU project application and implementation are arts in themselves. There are many traps for the unwary. For instance, at least three types of possible projects exist: tenders (when the Commission wants the work undertaken for its own use, say a piece of research preparatory to initiating legislation, and will pay 100% of the costs); action grants (where an individual applicant, or a consortium, wants to carry out work of its own which fits in with the Commission’s priorities, and only part of the money is paid, usually up to 80%); and operating grants (much rarer, where the Commission pays the running costs of an organisation carrying out work which fits in with its priorities, and the payment is usually up to 80%).
The few law firms which undertake such work apply for tenders (100% funded), and in my experience usually for research. They will be competing mainly with universities, but in some cases the experience of practitioners is key. One of the many traps is that applicants often have to have access to EU-wide contacts, so as to obtain the experience of many or all member states.
That is not easy for a law firm on its own, which is why there are often consortia as applicants. If you are interested, you have to look on the Tender Electronic Daily website for the tenders. If you want to apply for action grants or operating grants, you have to look at the relevant website of the directorate general in the area in which you are interested – presumably, for lawyers, that of DG Justice which has a page for tenders and another for other grants.
Here are some examples of the funded projects in which my organisation, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, is currently involved. They show the range of activities which the EU is prepared to fund in the lawyers’ sector, and might stimulate you to apply for funding for suitable projects.
We have built a European Find-A-Lawyer search facility through EU funding, and as a next step are now building an electronic role verification of lawyers for use in cross-border electronic proceedings (which we call Find-A-Lawyer 2), and also a European Training Platform, which will provide a European website for lawyer training courses.
Of particular interest is a new project, called Evidence. We are partner in a consortium consisting of the Italian National Research Council, some universities and Interpol. The final goal is to create a roadmap for the implementation of a Common European Legal Framework for the application of new technologies in the collection, use and exchange of electronic evidence. This will include research on the current state of play on electronic evidence in the member states. The project will last 30 months, until August 2016.
At the same time, we have put in an application (the decision on which is still unknown) for a different research project, called e-CONFIDENCE. The overall aim here will be to identify and tackle the challenges posed by IT for the fundamental right to privacy and data protection, in particular in relation to lawyer-client data and communications within the context of access to justice. The need arises out of the revelations of mass surveillance by governments, and of the practices of the internet giants in collecting data from their customers. We hope that we will be able to investigate protections for the future of legal professional privilege in the modern world.
EU funds can be used to build useful and practical projects of assistance to the legal profession. Now you can lower your hackles again.
Jonathan Goldsmith is secretary general of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, which represents around a million European lawyers through its member bars and law societies. He blogs weekly for the Gazette on European affairs