A Step Toward the Confidentiality of Legal Advice Issued by French In-House Counsel

On June 8, 2023, as part of the parliamentary debates on the so-called "Justice" bill, the French Senate voted on an amendment to the Law No. 71-1130 dated December 3, 1971, which aims to ensure confidentiality to certain legal advice issued by in-house counsel.

The amendment, adopted by the French Senate and now being reviewed by the French National Assembly, is limited to legal advice related to compliance issues.

The Amendment Sets Out a Number of Conditions to Be Met

First, only legal advice dealing with compliance is covered by the amendment—tax and criminal matters are excluded. Second, in-house counsel must hold a master's degree in law or similar degree and have undergone formal training in ethics. The French Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Economy is expected to issue a decree setting standards on the training required.

This Amendment Is Intended to Provide French In-House Counsel With Protection Similar to That of Their Foreign Peers

Right now, France is one of the few jurisdictions that does not extend legal privilege to legal advice from in-house counsel. This French peculiarity raises issues in the context of extraterritorial legal actions against national companies. As legal advice issued by French in-house counsel is not protected, French companies are at a clear disadvantage compared to their foreign competitors. Through this amendment, the senators' intent is to protect and strengthen France's economic attractiveness. 

The amendment has yet to be reviewed by the French National Assembly.

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