ECJ confirms no legal privilege for communications with in-house lawyers

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has confirmed in its judgment in AkzoNobel v Commission that the Commission is permitted to seize communications from a company’s in-house lawyers and that such communications are not protected by lawyer-client privilege.

The ECJ referred to the economic dependence of in-house lawyers and the close ties that the in-house lawyer has with their employer such that they "do not enjoy a level of professional independence comparable to that of an external lawyer." The judgment concerned only the narrow question of the independence of lawyers who were members of the Dutch bar, but it is likely that this decision will have implications for the legal industry throughout Europe, and for non-EU lawyers.