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Ethical Rules, Agency Costs and Law Firm Structure

George Mason University School of Law, Law and Economics Working Paper Series No. 97-03

Posted: 21 Apr 1997  

Larry E. Ribstein

University of Illinois College of Law (deceased); PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: January 1997

Abstract

The ethical rules of the legal profession, while ostensibly designed to reduce agency costs that arise between lawyers and clients, may actually exacerbate these costs by frustrating the operation of structural devices within law firms that would constrain lawyer-client agency costs in the absence of regulation. This article traces these effects of ethical rules on non-lawyer ownership of law firms, vicarious liability, noncompetition agreements and conflicts of interest. It also analyzes possible causes of perverse effects of ethical rules in the motivations of lawyers, judges and law professors, and considers possible cures, including enforcing lawyers' contractual selection of the applicable state ethical code.

Suggested Citation

Ribstein, Larry E., Ethical Rules, Agency Costs and Law Firm Structure (January 1997). George Mason University School of Law, Law and Economics Working Paper Series No. 97-03. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=10396

Larry Edward Ribstein (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law (deceased)

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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