Affiches parisiennes : The President of the bar association (“le Bâtonnier”) has entrusted you with the mission of leading the Paris Legal Makers. Can you explain the purpose of such mission ?
Stéphane de Navacelle : The Paris Legal Makers was born from the realization that there is no international event for Law as there is for Economics, such as the Davos event. However, France is by tradition and by its innovation, a place of excellence regarding national and international economic development. A good example is that the international Court of arbitration chose Paris as seat of its operations.
The issue is that today, Law is considered as “conflict” and as the President of the bar association would say, we have a ministry of justice in France but we do not have a ministry of Law.
The Paris Legal Makers is a true international event which will be for us an opportunity to meet, to talk and welcome our French and foreign guests. I insist on the fact that this event does not only target the legal community but is aimed at bringing together all those who contribute to the making of the Law today and who will continue to do so tomorrow: entrepreneurs, academic business leaders, representatives of the civil society. Legal Makers as the name suggests.
AP : Isn’t this a slightly daring move in the wake of the health crisis, which is not over yet?
SN : Actually we did not know it was impossible so we did it. It is the dynamic that we have set. We did not have any global vision for the project but we had a lot of ideas last spring and as you suggest, it was a close to impossible mission. I hope that with this everyone will consider the event as an impulse for the future.
We are convinced that Law is essential to economic recovery. Thus, making it probably the right time to organize such an event.
AP : You mentioned a “Davos of Law” which relates more to the economic world than the legal one. Do you wish to meet decision makers of both the legal and the economic world?
SN : Actually, even further as we are seeking to see how Law can be used as a lever for global trends. It is the law which, as a lever for economic growth, ecological transition, digital revolution, accompanies the transformation of our society. It is a meeting through the economy and around the law. This is what makes this approach relevant.
There will be representatives of international organizations, political institutions and decision-makers. I am notably thinking of the Minister of justice, of the European prosecutor and so on. From a business perspective, we wish to invite international groups, financial institutions which are going to send some of their decision-makers. There will be judges, notably I am thinking of one coming from South-Korea, a prosecutor from the new European public prosecutor’s office and of course all legal practitioners are welcome.
AP : Regarding international organizations, is the OECD or any other similar institution invited?
SN : Absolutely. The head of the legal department of the OECD is granting us the honor of presenting the global corporate tax initiative which was agreed upon ten days ago and confirmed last week at the G20 meeting in Rome. We will also welcome the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human rights and the environment, the Permanent Secretary of the Organization for the Harmonization of Corporate Law in Africa (OHADA) and the president of the international Court of arbitration.
When considering international organizations, we considered those which are most involved in the normative aspect, tomorrow law makers.
AP : You have also planned sessions on the subject of the environment. Today, can we consider the Law as fully involved in the preservation of the planet?
SN : Definitely, there is an awareness on the part of citizens, a concern for reality on the part of companies and at the same time, a reaction to create standards on the part of the States. We will address all these different aspects in a workshop called “Profitable and sustainable: law and shareholders hand in hand?”. It is an approach through criminal prosecution on environmental law matters and through justice and environmental litigation for businesses.
With such workshop we will be able to see both the activism of shareholders, the need for regulation and for prosecution as well as the good practices in terms of preservation of the environment which have become an argument for both recruitment and communication and which enter the field of business.
AP : We can see that on a global scale, the law is a genuine economic lever. Is it possible to say that France is a bit behind other world leading powers?
SN : We can certainly implement initiatives to regain a stronger dynamic than what currently exists. We need to be involved in the law-making organizations, rely on our European partners to avoid social dumping, to value our social contract. All of this obviously requires work, in particular to define a fairer tax system, and to value and protect what value we have created in France, including, for example, the intangible assets of companies.
AP : Economic development also relies on new technologies such as legal techs in law. Have legal professionals taken this on board?
SN : We have a great number of legal techs in France. There is a true dynamic and a true cooperation between engineers and law practitioners to offer the best possible services and be competitive at a global level. On this subject, we have set up various workshops dedicated to technology. We can see that technology is taking over a great number of aspects of our daily lives, so the question arises as to the role of the law in arbitrating what private life is, who owns the data and how it is monetized. So how can we strike the right balance, especially at a European level? We will also have a workshop on blockchains and the legal security it can provide.
AP : During this event, you will also discuss the hybridization of law. What does this concept entail?
SN : This is exactly the dilemma that companies face. And the greatest risk for them is uncertainty. With the integration of legal systems, and even the overcoming of legal systems, companies no longer know where to turn. The purpose of this workshop will be to try to establish the subject of hybridization as a subject in itself and to allow everyone to reflect of and work on a method that will allow them to adjust to this constant evolution that is steering us towards increasingly universal standards.
AP : You have also planned a conference on the legal director. Have you approached legal directors’ associations such as the AFJE or the Cercle Montesquieu to organize such conference ?
SN : In France, there is a debate in France on the role of the legal director, whereas in other countries as well as in big French companies, he or she is completely involved in the companies’ decisions making process. He or she is no longer an executor of the general management’s decisions. Having a strategic legal department is a way to prevent risks and therefore protect the company. And to do this, the legal director must no longer do law but do legal strategy. And we hope, notably with the support of the Cercle Montesquieu and the AFJE, that we will have a debate free of corporate interests on the value of the strategic legal director.
AP : The legal director would thus be comparable to a general counsel, a lawyer member of the bar who practices only for the company he or she works for, somehow acting as an in-house lawyer?
SN : We are heading in this direction. By having this segregation between the Bar, the legal department and even the judiciary, we are creating distortions that should not exist. The objective is to show that we can move towards an economy with fewer barriers between law, business and the legal professions. We would all benefit from the removal of these barriers, from the dissipation of potential misunderstandings, and from progress on common projects.
AP : Is the weight of law in the French economy significantly lower than in other countries?
SN : On the other side of the border, London’s legal market is supporting the city’s commercial and financial market, because it is where major investments, financial arrangements and transactions involving very large volumes can be decided. Therefore, it is now up to us to work together to catch up. We have all the assets we need in a post-Brexit world, in a world that is questioning itself, where yesterday’s balances will be replaced by very fragile and changing imbalances.
Paris has all the necessary skills: niche expert firms, national firms with international reach and network leaders, and large foreign firms. So, in the end, Paris is the world’s melting pot of law, a political, economic and financial center.
It’s up to us to find the right alchemy to welcome our guests so that they leave full of ideas and gratitude to extend their Parisian adventure in one way or another.