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What is a Legal Register?

Written by Garth Watson
on January 13, 2017

What is a legal register? 

A legal register is a list of legal instruments, whether legislation, regulation or otherwise, which apply uniquely to a given operation.
 Which legal instruments apply to an operation in question, is a function of various factors, such as:
  • the location of the operation in question
  • the activities carried out at the operation
  • the size and type of company or organisation.
The location of the operation determines the legal jurisdiction or jurisdictions (in the event that a number of jurisdictions for example (union, federation, country, province, departments, municipalities) have law making authority in the same location.
The location of the operation also indicates whether geographic features for example, proximity to a protected area, trigger the applicability of certain legal instruments.
Similarly, the activities of an operation affect which legal instruments should be contained in the operation's legal register. For example, a legal register for an office environment, will be very different to a legal register for an offshore oil and gas operation.
Lastly, where the applicability of a statutory instrument is not dependent on the location or the activities of an operation, applicability may be determined on the basis of other factors, such as the size of the company. For example, many legal provisions apply if a company crosses size thresholds either in turnover, or in number of employees and don't apply if these thresholds are not exceeded.
Legal registers are often used as part of management systems aligned with international standards such as ISO 14001 (environmental legal registers), OHSAS 18001 or ISO 45001 (health and safety legal registers) and ISO 27001 (information security legal registers).

FAQs About Legal Registers:

1. How often should a legal register be updated?

  • Legal registers should ideally be updated regularly to ensure accuracy and compliance with any changes in laws or regulations relevant to the operation. The frequency of updates may vary depending on factors such as the pace of regulatory changes, the complexity of the legal landscape, and the specific requirements of the organization. However, a general recommendation is to review and update the legal register at least quarterly or whenever significant changes occur.

2. Are there any legal implications for not maintaining a legal register?

  • Yes, there can be legal implications for not maintaining a legal register. Failure to keep an accurate and up-to-date legal register may result in non-compliance with applicable laws and regulations, which could lead to legal penalties, fines, or other consequences. Additionally, lacking a legal register may hinder the organization's ability to demonstrate compliance during audits or regulatory inspections, potentially damaging its reputation and credibility.

3. Can a legal register be tailored to specific industry standards beyond ISO certifications?

  • Absolutely, legal registers can be customized to address specific industry standards beyond ISO certifications. Depending on the nature of the organization's operations and the regulatory environment it operates in, legal registers can incorporate requirements from various industry-specific standards and frameworks such as environmental management systems (e.g., ISO 14001), occupational health and safety management systems (e.g., OHSAS 18001 or ISO 45001), information security management systems (e.g., ISO 27001), and more. Customizing the legal register to align with industry standards ensures comprehensive compliance and risk management tailored to the organization's specific needs and objectives.
Unfortunately, legal registers have some subtle shortcomings. Stay tuned for our first blog series which explores how to spot certain shortcomings of legal registers.
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