Federalizing Legal Ethics, Nationalizing Law Practice, and the Future of the American Legal Profession in a Global Age
60 Pages Posted: 22 May 2011 Last revised: 21 Mar 2012
Date Written: May 17, 2011
The nationalization of law practice is a significant contemporary development, and globalization of law practice is likely soon to follow. The natural and obvious regulatory solution to nationalization and globalization of law practice is the nationalization, and perhaps down the road the globalization, of the regulatory approach to law practice. Yet, although technological advances continue to flatten our world; clients’ needs increasingly span jurisdictional, regional, and national borders; large law firms become national, even global entities; and outsourcing and off-shoring legal services become a reality, still, the regulation of the legal profession continues to be state-based, rendering self-regulation outdated and increasingly inconsistent with practice realities.
This article analyzes the ongoing nationalization and globalization of law practice exploring its causes and effects, argues that the current state-based approach to the regulation of the legal profession ill fits the new landscape of law practice, and studies several approaches to responding to the nationalization of law practice. Rejecting both the status quo and the nationalization (or federalization) of the regulatory approach to law practice, the article advocates a third, intermediary approach: retaining the current state-based admissions, licensing, and disciplinary apparatus, while adopting an open-border national jurisdiction for purposes of lawyers’ authorized law practice. This intermediary approach to nationalizing law practice addresses pressing client needs ignored by the current state-based approach while respecting longstanding arguments supporting the ability of states to regulate law practice and arguments favoring self-regulation over the federalization of the practice of law.
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