Should In-House Lawyers Represent Employers?

LSK In-house Committee Convener Ms. Faith Basiye and Head of Forensic Services at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group presenting a paper titled The In-House Counsel Stakeholder Management during a CPD Seminar on In-House Practice at Hilton Hotel, Nairobi.

By Harold Ayodo

Nairobi, Kenya: Debate raged during a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) seminar whether in-house lawyers should represent their employers in court.
Lawyers attending a Law Society of Kenya (LSK) CPD Seminar on In-House Practice at Hilton Hotel Nairobi argued for and against in-house counsel representing their employers in courtroom litigation.
LSK In-house Committee Convener Ms. Faith Basiye (pictured below) said that in-house lawyers representing organisations/institutions in court is contentious.
“Matters of conflict of interest may arise as the in-house lawyer is part of the institution involved in a legal dispute,” Ms. Basiye said.
Ms. Basiye who is also the Head of Forensic Services at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group said that most in-house lawyers lack professional indemnity as their counterparts in law firms.
“The risks involved for in-house lawyers representing employers in court are many and it is wise to engage external lawyers with the litigation briefs,” Ms. Basiye said.
Ms. Basiye who cautioned lawyers to guard against vested interests and uphold professionalism was presenting a paper titled The In-House Counsel Stakeholder Management.
She said that in-house lawyers should work well with external counsel and set the rules of engagement.
It is fundamental to give clear instructions to outside counsel, assess the case early and communicate well,” Ms. Basiye said.
She said that in-house lawyers should invest in the relationship and maintain a balance between by showing trust and loyalty to outside counsel.
“External counsel should also reciprocate by improving performance and remain competitive,” Ms. Basiye said.
She said that in-house lawyers should obtain Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) in writing or stamp written communication with words “Strictly Confidential: Not to be Photocopied or Further Disclosed”.
Separately, Dr. Johnson Okello, Advocate presented a paper titled Legal Audit and Statutory Compliance.
“Legal audits assist organizations to identify the potential, present and prospective legal problems by the legal audit team,” Dr. Okello said.
He said that legal audits are undertaken as prevention is better than cure and to facilitate quick understanding of the legal regime applicable in an area.
“Legal audits also assist institutions to measure the level of compliance with laws, rules and regulations and act as a warning to institutions to be aware of areas of law that require attention,” Dr. Okello said.

- Harold Ayodo, LSK Programme Officer (Communication)

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