This week’s statement is a great opportunity to build certainty and collaboration.
The in-house lawyer (IHL) is increasingly delivering professional excellence within business, providing active advice and good governance to their employing organisations. As part of an IHLs role, the professional must stay up to date with changes in the commercial environment, whilst maintaining strong visibility over a wide range of commercial legal issues. The autumn statement marks a point in any IHLs year when strategic thinking comes to the fore, to assess the impact of proposed policies in the statement.
For IHLs, there is a constant flow of information around outcomes-focused regulation. The Solicitors Regulation Authority has worked hard to assess the impact of its approach on all lawyers. In taking this approach, IHLs welcome the drive by professional bodies to encourage voluntary self-regulation without constraining oversight. The IHL community already has a scheme for self-regulation through the development of In House Counsel Worldwide. This has set out a structured programme to develop IHLs as they increasingly operate within the context of a global market.
IHLs employing organisations must operate within multiple jurisdictions, so any focus in the statement on delivering greater certainty, clarifying and crystallising the UK’s stance on European issues will assist IHLs. UK IHLs support businesses that operate collaboratively with markets in the devolved administrations, so it would be helpful if the autumn statement encouraged this collaboration. With the UK placed geographically in the middle of the Americas and Asia Pac in terms of time zones, IHLs may often be based in the UK but hold responsibility for managing legal issues across EMEA. This commercial reality drives significant business activity through the UK and the C&I Group would not wish the autumn statement to inhibit such active regional engagement on the world’s stage.
Continuing the ability to engage, any support in the autumn statement on building the IHLs ability to flow between UK regions to support business activities for organisations will reinforce good interaction between north and south businesses. In this regard, any high-speed rail links to encourage the flow of teams between geographical locations will be valuable. Similarly, promotion of technology hubs such as the support of Old Street, development of technology sites in Scotland and Manchester, and support provision of virtual service provision will help IHLs better serve their own organisations. As clients, IHLs who are able to gain better access to technology will be better placed to help our businesses thrive and in so doing, build more successful communities.
This can be encouraged by measures in the autumn statement to promote and co-ordinate access to public services on line and via social media. This may take the form of increased access to courts and legal services and greater opportunity to initiate and manage legal proceedings online, whilst maintaining security and confidentiality. This will have the added benefit of improving the public’s access to justice without increasing the costs of providing such access.
Finally, an acknowledgement in the statement might be appropriate of the significant contribution made to citizens, in the form of IHLs contributing to the Citizenship Foundation via the Lawyers in Schools programme and their extensive mentoring of legal professionals and third sector organisations.
This pro bono involvement by the C&I Group includes active engagement with all professional bodies such as The Law Society, The Bar Council, The Bar Association of Commerce, Finance and Industry, the Association of Local Government Lawyers, Institute of Legal Executives etc promoting cohesion at all levels of the legal profession. For C&I Group IHLs, this professional cohesion extends to other professional bodies such as ACCA, CIMA, Institute of Purchasing and the IBA.
The autumn statement is a great opportunity to build certainty and collaboration – we commend efforts to achieve these aims.
Nina Barakzai is group head of data protection and privacy, Sky, and a former chair of the C&I Group