IBA survey on corruption and the legal profession

IBA Report on the impact of corruption on the legal profession

Corruption is a significant issue in the legal profession in many jurisdictions; say the results of a survey being released today by the IBA, in cooperation with OECD and UNODC

Survey: Forty percent of lawyers surveyed have never heard of international anti-corruption instruments

The findings of a major global survey of private legal practitioners, released today at the 2010 International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference in Vancouver, Canada, show widespread concern amongst lawyers about corruption in the legal profession and a lack of awareness of key international anti-corruption instruments, such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

According to the survey, 40 percent of respondents had never heard of these instruments, which directly impacts the work of private legal practitioners.

At the same time, the IBA survey also found that in many jurisdictions well over half of the lawyers surveyed identified corruption as an issue in the legal profession in their own country. More than one in five said they had been approached to take part in what they believed could be a corrupt transaction. And, one in three said they had lost business to corrupt law firms or individuals.

Although survey results varied substantially from region to region, the main findings also showed that:

* Younger respondents (aged 20 to 30 years) were, on average, less aware of international anti-corruption laws and national legislation than older respondents.
* Only 43 per cent of respondents recognised that their bar associations provide some kind of anti-corruption guidance for legal practitioners. Of these, only a third said that such guidance specifically addresses the issue of international corruption.
* Less than 40 per cent of respondents said anti-corruption was a priority at their law firm and just under a third said that their firms do not have a clear and specific anti-corruption policy.
* More than two-thirds of respondents said their law firms had not been subject to anti-corruption or anti-money laundering due diligence conducted by foreign clients.
* A total of 42 per cent of respondents agreed that national anti-corruption laws and regulations were effective in preventing both inbound and outbound international corruption compared to five years ago.
* The survey, which was conducted by the IBA, in cooperation with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), includes responses from 642 legal professionals in 95 jurisdictions that aimed to explore the level of awareness of the risks of corruption; to investigate the legal profession’s awareness of the tools available to mitigate these risks; and to examine the role bar associations, law societies and law firms have in ensuring the legal profession is equipped to engage effectively in the international fight against corruption.

The survey was 'the first step in a global effort to help understand and address the different challenges faced by legal professionals as a result of the threats of corruption,' said Fernando Pelaez-Pier, IBA President. 'The organisations involved in the Strategy have understood that, by joining forces together, the success of a much needed industry-wide approach to international corruption will be guaranteed,' Mr. Pelaez-Pier added.

'The survey results are disappointing, so we need to do more to raise awareness of these instruments,' said Nicola Bonucci, Director for Legal Affairs at the OECD. 'International instruments like the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention form the basis for anti-bribery laws and enforcement actions the world over – lawyers need to be aware of how they can be affected in their own practice and of the tools that are available to assist with compliance. We are raising awareness of the Anti-Bribery Convention among the legal profession with the IBA, through trainings and projects like this survey. We have also launched our own Initiative to Raise Global Awareness of Foreign Bribery, which includes academic outreach, developing studies on the impact of transnational bribery and reaching out to partners in the private sector and civil society.'

The report also provides three significant recommendations based on the survey results. First, further research should be undertaken into the existence of international corruption in the legal profession. Second, the legal profession needs to collectively pursue more industry-wide anti-corruption awareness-raising and training activities. Lastly, compliance programmes for legal professionals must include measures to combat bribery and international corruption and be widely disseminated through the firm.

Dimitri Vlassis, Head of the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch at UNODC, said 'UNODC supports the initiative because of its potential to equip the legal profession with the tools it needs to perform its crucial mission. We were taken aback by the lack of crucial knowledge among legal professionals of key international instruments against corruption. It is, therefore, very important that these recommendations are already being implemented. The first set of in-country trainings is underway in Latin America and next year the programme will expand to other regions of the world. We all understand the importance of acting without delay to put legal professionals at the forefront of the anti-corruption movement. We need lawyers to act as leaders in this battle.'

The survey was conducted as part of the IBA’s ongoing 'Anti-Corruption Strategy for the Legal Profession', an initiative led by the IBA, with support from the OECD and UNODC, to raise awareness of the international anti-corruption instruments and associated implementing legislation among the legal profession and to arm lawyers with the necessary tools and knowledge to identify and address potential threats to the integrity of the legal profession caused by corruption. The full survey report and more information on the 'Anti-Corruption Strategy for the Legal Profession' are available online at: www.anticorruptionstrategy.org


For more information please contact:

Gonzalo Guzman
Senior Staff Lawyer
IBA Legal Projects Team

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