A lawyer does so much more than advocate
Entertainment company Studio 100 has appointed lawyer Christine Mussche to investigate corporate culture at Plopsa. The story surrounding the amusement park group Plopsa makes clear that a lawyer often takes on many more tasks than those you would think of at first glance. We polled a number of lawyers and they talk about their lesser-known assignments as lawyers.
There has been much in the press in recent days about testimonies about possible cross-border behaviour at the amusement park group Plopsa. The entertainment company Studio 100 has appointed lawyer Christine Mussche to investigate the corporate culture at Plopsa. It is remarkable that Studio 100 is taking on a lawyer for an independent investigation within the company. And yet it is not so exceptional, as Mr Mussche herself explained in the media that it is not the first time she has been assigned such a task.
It got us thinking. When you think of a lawyer, you immediately think of someone in a toga who defends people in court or someone who works out a legal solution for a conflict or an issue that you come to him for advice.
The story surrounding the theme park group Plopsa makes it clear that a lawyer often takes on many more tasks than those you would think of at first glance.
So we polled some lawyers and asked them, "What tasks do you also take on as a lawyer or what tasks do you know about, tasks that people might not immediately think of?"
What other tasks does a lawyer take on?
Mr Pierre de Bandt is a lawyer with the Dutch Bar Association at the Brussels Bar. He mainly focuses on matters of economic law such as competition law.
He replies, "A good example is the lawyer's intervention in inspections in the context of alleged infringements of competition law. Since such inspections are a real risk for any company, it is the lawyer's job to inform and prepare his client as well as possible for any inspections. When such inspections effectively occur, the lawyer's job is to minimise the damage to the company and its staff, despite the enormous pressure and tension. After the shock of the raid, the lawyer's role is also broader than determining the company's legal strategy. At that point, the lawyer becomes the person of choice to whom, thanks to the essential protection of professional secrecy, the client can reveal his trade, doubts and needs. In that case, the lawyer plays his role par excellence as an essential link in the rule of law, a role that has become even more important in these uncertain times."
But a lawyer does much more
Mr Tom Bauwens also occasionally deals with an assignment you would not immediately attribute to a lawyer. He too is a lawyer with the Dutch Bar Association at the Brussels Bar; he is at home in criminal law, insurance law and civil liability cases, among others. In each of these areas of law, companies are increasingly calling on his expertise. Late last year, for instance, he was closely involved in an internal investigation into possible fraud in a very large listed company.
Companies also often ask Mr Bauwens toreview their employment regulations or personnel policy, for example, to check whether it complies with all existing legal rules and, above all, to check whether a regulation is correctly applied in the workplace.
On 15 February this year, a new law came into force on the protection of whistleblowers, people who dare to expose fraudulent behaviour in the public or private sector. For that too, companies are already hiring external lawyers, says Mr Bauwens, for example to assess the reliability of a whistleblower's testimony.
If you wonder why, in so many cases, companies call on the help of a lawyer, who is actually an outsider, Mr Bauwens says: "A lot of legislation has a section related to criminal law. If, like me, you have been involved in criminal law for 22 years, you know how the police and the judiciary work during an interrogation. That experience comes in handy to point out to companies certain pain points in, for example, their personnel policy, pain points that could be charged heavily to them if something goes wrong and it comes to a judicial investigation. "