Public Affairs & The Law

19 Sep 2019

Pete Bowyer, Partner at DRD Partnership in London, assesses the intertwined relationship between public affairs and the law.

Since joining DRD nearly two years ago we have introduced experience and insights from Westminster, Brussels and the broader political and government machinery to the advice we give our clients.

Our practice, whilst employing political experts, is closely integrated into the broader work we do as a firm. For most of our clients, we sit alongside their general council and legal advisers as we take a broad look at how business objectives can be achieved through a co-ordinated and integrated approach to problem solving.

Broadly, public affairs consultancies offer three core services to their clients: monitoring and reporting back on political developments; developing relationships with politicians and policymakers; and creating strategies to influence primary legislation or secondary regulations.

It is in the last area, in particular, that the crossover with the legal profession becomes most apparent.

Lawyers have a key role in clarifying and interpreting the law as it currently stands, but often clients also request assistance in seeking to change the law itself. This is where public affairs professionals naturally come in, and where we often get the call-up.

The interconnection is clear in three recent examples from our work with different law firms:

  • Creating a trade body for the controversial secondary ticketing industry to demonstrate their high standards of customer service and to make the case to policymakers for a licensing system to weed out bad practices;
  • Lobbying for the advertising industry against restrictions on the promotion of foods high in fat, salt and sugar;
  • Preparing witnesses for an appearance at a high profile Parliamentary Select Committee.

In each of these cases, we worked closely with lawyers. The support we enjoyed from them was indispensable to our wider lobbying, whether it was in legally establishing a trade body at Companies House, or providing legal argumentation for consultation responses.

Working together with leading law firms has allowed us to be greater than the sum of our parts. It has proved mutually beneficial, not just for our respective firms, but more importantly for the clients themselves who have been able to achieve commercial objectives that would otherwise have been beyond them.