Today, the Association of Corporate Counsel, joined by its European Chapter, asked its members to sign a petition with the German Bundestag reaffirming the independence of in-house counsel in Germany. As further explained below, the petition is in response to an erroneous decision of the Federal Social Court, which denied in-house counsel the permission to participate in bar association pension schemes, due to their asserted lack of independence. The note to our members is below.
This challenge to the independence of the in-house bar is, unfortunately, not a new one. It is, however, contrary to how in-house counsel actually operate and the ethical rules that demand that lawyers represent the organization, not any particular employee or executive. Moreover, treating in-house counsel as second-class citizens in the bar undermines society’s interest in encouraging compliance with the law, as in-house counsel are best situated to ensure that outcome.
In this particular instance, the Federal Social Court also profoundly hindered the mobility of lawyers in Germany, ultimately harming the unity of the legal profession in Germany. Both external and internal lawyers will now have to consider the pension impact of any career move within the legal profession. The natural flow of legal expertise into, and out of, corporate clients will significantly diminish, to the detriment of both clients and society at large.
We hope that you, if you are a German national, or your German colleagues will sign the petition linked below. Even if the petition fails to reach the required 50,000 signatures, ACC and its European Chapter will continue to press this important issue through other efforts to adopt corrective legislation.
On behalf of the Association of Corporate Counsel and the European Chapter, we strongly encourage German members of ACC, their German colleagues and outside counsel to sign the petition linked below. That petition aims at correcting an erroneous judgement made by the Federal Social Court when it decided to force company lawyers to participate in the government pension system, rather than permitting them to obtain the benefits of bar association pensions. In making this decision to treat corporate lawyers differently from other lawyers, the Court mistakenly reasoned that company lawyers were less independent than their outside counterparts.
The consequences of this erroneous decision are enormous. In addition to reinforcing the notion that company lawyers are not as independent as outside lawyers, the decision will make it more difficult for companies to attract new lawyers and for current company lawyers to change positions (current pensions are exempted from this new requirement).
A petition has now been started with the German Bundestag to address this situation. The petition is available at this link:
The deadline for signatures is 19 June. If you are German, please sign it. Please have your German colleagues and outside counsel sign it. Please have your German family members and friends sign it. It is in the interests of all Germans to have an in-house bar that is considered truly independent. This petition requires 50,000 signatures in order to initiate a process for amendment, so please sign it immediately and circulate this message to everybody with an interest in this issue.
ACC and ACC Europe will continue to work on this issue after19 June. If you have any questions or would like to participate in that effort, please feel free to reach out to any of us (our email addresses are listed below).
Thank you for your support.
Sabine Brumme – Country representative for Germany, ACC Europe
Carsten Lueers – Member of the chapter board and country representative for Germany, ACC Europe
Amar Sarwal – Vice President and Chief Legal Strategist, Association of Corporate Counsel