Executive Summaries » Ethics have Calculable Value

Ethics have Calculable Value

February 24, 2016

Implementing socially responsible policies and promoting an ethical way of doing business generates profits as well as good will. Socially responsible actions make consumers more likely to believe that the company produces high quality products. Activities such as focusing on sustainability and improving internal control procedures can lower costs and improve efficiencies.

In-house counsel has a key role in doing business in conformity to a wider system of social rules. In supporting top management’s activities, in-house counsel may be in the position of preventing them from focusing on short-term gains and taking shortcuts to profitability. To facilitate this, in-house counsel need full access to corporate information and the assurance that information received and any opinions given are subject to the attorney-client privilege.

The issue of privilege is problematic in Europe. In some European countries in-house counsel are members of the Bar, with the same standing in respect to privilege as lawyers in private practice. In other countries lawyers employed by companies are regulated by a separate set of laws, and in others attorneys who work in companies are neither admitted to the bar nor recognized by the law.

In view of the fact that most common law countries recognize the special role of in-house counsel, lack of recognition in other countries may cause unequal treatment and irregularities in a global market. Thus, legislative action on this matter would seem to be necessary at both the country and EU level.

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