On 10 May, the Law Society organised a joint seminar with the French National Bar, CNB in Paris in order to discuss issues of importance to both jurisdictions, and to facilitate greater cooperation within the legal profession.

The seminar was opened by CNB President Pascal Eydoux and Law Society President Robert Bourns. Both reiterated the importance of cooperation within the legal profession and expressed their hope for more interaction and an ever deeper relationship between the two organisations.

Subsequently, two panels of experts discussed the latest developments, challenges and opportunities in France and England and Wales on the following topics:

The impact of Brexit on the legal profession in England and Wales and in France

Robert Bourns spoke on practice rights issues and market access for lawyers and law firms, and also update the audience on our activities in relation to Brexit since the outcome of the referendum. He affirmed our commitment to working together as a legal community post-Brexit, in particular in regard to the many of our members who practise across the European Union, as well the equally high number of registered European lawyers and foreign law firms operating in England and Wales.

David Greene, Chair of the International issues Committee of the Law Society addressed the triggering of Article 50, and how the UK intends to continue cooperation with the EU on civil justice issues post-Brexit.

David Levy, who is heading the legal department of the CNB, spoke on the vast consequences of Brexit on the profession, and on applicable law and cross-border issues and the CNB’s work on mutual access for the legal profession in England and Wales and in France.

Thomas Baudesson, Partner at Clifford Chance in Paris and member of the Paris Bar’s, referred to the high number of foreign lawyers in Paris and vice-versa the number of French lawyers in England and Wales, and that a viable solution in the interest of the public, lawyers, and their clients ideally would preserve the status quo.

Business and Human Rights

Both the CNB and the Law Society have a long-standing commitment to advancing business and human rights with and are among the first bar associations in the world to look at how to practically address issues for its members in the business and human rights space. The panel discussion followed up from that analysis of our last joint event in April 2016 in London.

Human Rights Committee Chair Tony Fisher addressed the Modern Slavery Act and explained that while it has raised awareness among the public and the profile of Business and Human Rights, the UK plan lacks measurables and more action is needed before it can be fully evaluated.

Sheldon Leader, Professor at Essex University, referred to the cross-roads of Business and Human Rights and explained that to make them operational, the impact of business projects and the violation of human rights have to be matched accordingly.

The talked about the French bill on the duty of due diligence and the liability of parent corporations, adopted in the plenary session on March 30th 2015 that represents a historic step in the process of inscribing the international guidelines into the legislative corpus. However, they also explained that the bill does not go far enough. It requires MNE’s to prepare a strategic plan on their Business and Human rights obligations without actual action or checks on implementation.

Ultimately, the speakers agreed that MNE’s are vectors in furthering human rights in certain states - this role including their duties and responsibilities needs to be recognised by law.