Lawyers at Risk: How the Changing Landscape of International Human Rights Law Will Impact Your Practice
For lawyers, in-house or firm, a client’s alleged involvement in human trafficking or modern slavery can be devastating not only to the client, but also to the in-house lawyer’s position and the reputation of the lawyer’s firm. The pandemic and social movements of the past six months have focused many government agencies, international associations and the public on the treatment of individuals around the world. For example, the European Union is in the process of collecting comments on proposals to impose due diligence requirements related to international human rights issues in supply chains and transactions.
Each lawyer’s obligation now is to look to the future in this area of the law and guide their clients through a dynamic situation. Lawyers may find trouble where a contract they negotiated is attacked in litigation as illegal because it creates the environment for human trafficking or modern slavery. What looked like a simple contract review with a security company suddenly becomes an issue where individuals can be charged for criminal violations related to abuses by that security company. Corruption often comes with human trafficking and modern slavery issues, so claims of criminal conspiracy are a potential risk.
Then there is the reputational harm. Issues related to human trafficking and modern slavery can often be high profile. Unlike in litigation, being unaware of the risks is not a defense in the court of public opinion. For this reason alone, lawyers need to know how to advise clients on codes of conduct, due process initiatives, training programs, and government relations that position the client, and thereby the lawyer, to avoid involvement in human trafficking and modern slavery.
To learn more in this area takes some effort. An additional opportunity to learn is coming this Thursday, December 10, when the International Human Rights Committee of the International Law Section of the State Bar of Texas and the International Bar Association sponsor a panel on the topic of “Lawyers at risk: the impact of human trafficking and modern slavery and their clients.”
This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.