November – December 2021
- Focus on CSR in law firms
- The non-competition clause challenged by the “digital nomad”
- News from the firm
Focus on CSR in law firms
Since 2019, the “Loi Pacte” has included the following principle in Article 1833 of the Civil Code: “A company shall be managed in its corporate interest, taking into consideration the social and environmental issues of its activity. Thus, the corporate social responsibility of companies was recorded.
This concept arose as a reaction to major financial scandals (subprime crisis, Enron), ecological and social disasters (Bhopal, Rana Plaza) forcing the increased development of risk identification procedures.
Today, corporate social responsibility is enshrined internationally in the ISO 26000 standard, the United Nations Guiding Principles, which gives it a cross-border scope.
Since then, CSR has become a real strategic tool for companies, particularly in their commercial relations. A company can now impose compliance with CSR standards on its partners in a binding manner, as shown by the decision of the Paris Court of Appeal of 24 March 2021. Indeed, by considering as foreseeable the termination of commercial relations by Promod with its supplier not respecting the company’s Code of Ethics, the Court of Appeal contributes to reinforcing the efficiency of CSR which, in addition to promoting the company’s image, becomes an argument for commercial negotiation.
If all companies are now concerned by CSR, what about law firms?
Law firms are just as concerned by CSR as other companies because they are also concerned about being in accordance with new market requirements and also follow the evolution of their own clients who may legitimately ask their partner law firms to respect certain CSR standards in their internal organisation.
The Council of European Bars and Law Societies soon took up this issue by proposing, as early as 2013, the main lines of CSR for law firms (the Social Responsibility of Law Firms RSCA), the latest guide to which was drawn up in 2017.
There are several advantages to implementing CSR measures in a law firm, particularly in terms of :
– Attractiveness to clients by using its social commitment as a differentiating tool in the market;
– Opportunity to develop a new field of expertise by positioning itself as the privileged partner of companies concerned with CSR;
– A sustainable development of its human capital by setting up operating processes within the firm that are in line with CSR concerns.
The Paris Court of Appeal, in a decision of 13 October 2021, also had to rule on the action brought by a former associate lawyer against a major Parisian business law firm for which he worked.
In its decision, the Court of Appeal sanctioned the brutal termination of the collaboration contract of this associate, in the context of burn-out, as well as the subsequent actions of the firm that employed him.
This type of case illustrates the need for law firms to seize the subject of CSR and to become aware of the importance of these issues.
The non-competition clause challenged by the “digital nomad”
Now that teleworking is becoming normal and offers employees the freedom to exercise their profession outside their place of work, are the conditions for the validity of the non-competition clause based on the limitation of the territorial scope still relevant?
As a reminder, on the basis of the fundamental principle of free exercise of a professional activity and the principle of proportionality, the social chamber of the Court of Cassation has decided that a non-competition clause is only valid if it is necessary for the protection of the legitimate interests of the company, limited in time and space, takes into account the specificities of the employee’s job and includes the obligation for the employer to pay the employee a financial compensation, these conditions being cumulative (Cass. soc, 10 July 2002, nos. 99-43.334, 99-43.335 and 99-43.336).
The efficiency of these criteria is questioned by teleworking, which tends to erase the geographical constraint in the exercise of the various professions. Therefore, it would be appropriate to rethink the geographical criterion to adapt it to the evolutions of the labour market. For example, it could be envisaged to define a restriction which would consider the particularities of the activity carried out, especially if this activity is now mainly carried out at a distance.
These criteria are likely to be subject to other interpretations today, particularly regarding the specific nature of remote work and the new risks for the company’s interests, which is why rethinking the way non-competition clauses are drafted in contracts would make it possible to anticipate possible future disputes.
News from the firm
– The firm’s team is renewed!
The firm has strengthened its teams with the arrival of two new associates in recent months: Luca DEMURTAS (Luca DEMURTAS – Cazeau & Associés (ncazeau.com)) in business law and contract law, and Alexia Duran Froix in labour law and relations with Spain. (Alexia DURAN FROIX – Cazeau & Associés (ncazeau.com)).
Nathalie Cazeau took part in the Legaltech Transformation of the Law exhibition on 18 and 19 November 2021 to promote the DIGILAW project available for trial via https://www.ncazeau.com/digilaw-fr/.
Don’t hesitate to try the DIGILAW experience!
On 8 December 2021, Nathalie Cazeau will speak at the webinair dedicated to “TELELABOUR AND THE 4th WAVE OF COVID-19 / Crossed views: France, Belgium and Luxembourg” organised by the UIA.
To register, go to: