On May 31 the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) released a report entitled ‘Lobbying law firms – unfinished business’ which demonstrates that many law firms based in Brussels chose to not comply with the EU lobby transparency register. Although not mandatory, the absence of important actors displayed the shortcomings of the system.
While the number of registered firms rose from 43 in 2012 to 1043 in 2016, the quality of data provided by them is still poor. The report names and shames international law firms that were unable to populate the register with either accurate or updated data. The watchdog ALTER-EU explains the situation as follows:
There is a grey area when it comes to the question of where legal advice ends and advocacy or lobbying begins and many law firms argue that they cannot join the lobby register because either their work does not constitute lobbying or because they would not be able to disclose their clients because of legal client confidentiality. But of course, while client confidentiality applies to legal clients, it does not apply to clients who pay for lobbying services.
It should be noted that these firms have operations in the United States, notably in Washington. There they are obliged to comply with the compulsory US lobby register. That’s the main criticism made by ALTER-EU, which calls European authorities to enforce a legally-binding platform.