LSUC Professional Practice Workshop and Panel Sessions: Part II: The Role of a Lawyer in Developing Policies for a Client or Organization that Comply with International Law Atelier professionnel du Barreau du Haut-Canada et séances simultanées: Partie II: Le
November 14, 2014
Bennett Jones, LLP
International Committee of the Red Cross
Trade Counsel, Government of Ontario, Ministry of the Attorney General and Ministry of Economic Development, Employment, and Infrastructure
2017 JD Candidate
The panel focused on the professional responsibilities and ethical considerations of lawyers practicing in an area related to international law. The framework provided by the chair was that the international legal context can apply to all realms of legal practice, not only the public domain and that compliance was within the scope of a wide range on legal regimes.
The first illustration of the above was through the example of criminal and civil liabilities for corruption. Mr. Barutciski pointed out that legislation in this regard was specifically amended last year to remove the ‘for profit’ requirement in relation to corruption, expanding it to include international non-governmental organizations. He also explained that challenges from a professional responsibility framework exist in essentially all areas of legal practice. For example, he mentioned clients asking how to ‘get around’ the law or not following legal advice.
Mr. Jim Bell asserted that the ‘hard law’ was relatively obvious; for example, the UN conventions on corruption. However, it is the on the ground issues that companies operating overseas face that lead to significant legal complications. He stated further that the vast majority of bribery cases involve agents on the ground in foreign deals, specifically relating to business development. When there are infractions, importance of the code of professional conduct; when you are alerted to issues, it is your duty to report them to the CEO, for example.
Mr. Robert Young and Mr. Michael Solrush spoke to the contexts of the NGO and the public sector respectively. Mr. Young related his role as providing advice about human rights law while adhering to rules about professional obligations. In giving confidential advice to states about their obligations under international law, it can manifest as advice to the state or it can also be to military commanders as to their individual obligations. From Mr. Solrush’s perspective, the issues centered on the advice given to governments regarding international economic initiatives. For him, the main questions that arose included: what is the likelihood of a legal challenge and how to provide a risk assessment. Lawyers have to take into account not only the legal impact of corporate decision-making, but the reputational effect as well.