Lawyers, Law Firms and the Stabilization of Transnational Business

29 Pages Posted: 27 Dec 2007 Last revised: 22 Nov 2015

See all articles by John Flood

John Flood

Griffith University - Griffith Law School; University College London; University of Westminster - School of Law; Centre for Blockchain Technologies

Fabian P. Sosa

University of Bremen

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Globalization is having profound effects on the practice and the organization of law. In the field of cross-border transactions the role of the state and its legal system has diminished such that private ordering through contracting is now the key mode of lawmaking. The vast majority of private ordering is undertaken by large law firms with international practices. Moreover, these law firms tend to adopt Anglo-American common law principles when putting together transactions. Yet within Europe there is competition from the law firms of the civil law countries, which are becoming adept at identifying markets not fully taken over by the American and English firms. But in order to understand the roles of lawyers in such cross-border transactions, we start from Abel and Lewis' question: what is that lawyers do? By using a number of case studies of transactions and disputes, we attempt to theorize how it is that lawyers create enabling and support structures for transnational business. We draw on Luhmann's ideas of stabilization of expectations and Gilson's depiction of lawyers as transaction cost engineers to help explain our findings.

Keywords: lawyers, Luhmann, Gilson, cross-border, globalization, law firms

JEL Classification: F23, J44

Suggested Citation

Flood, John A. and Sosa, Fabian P., Lawyers, Law Firms and the Stabilization of Transnational Business. Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business, Vol. 28, pp. 489-525, 2008. Available at SSRN:

John A. Flood

Griffith University - Griffith Law School ( email )

Nathan Campus
170 Kessels Road
Nathan 4111, Queensland


University College London ( email )

Gower St
London WC1E OEG, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom


University of Westminster - School of Law ( email )

4 Little Titchfield Street
London, England W1W 7UW
United Kingdom


Centre for Blockchain Technologies ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

Fabian P. Sosa (Contact Author)

University of Bremen ( email )

Universitaetsallee GW I
Bremen, D-28334

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