Regulating Conflicts of Interest in Global Law Firms: Peace in Our Time?
28 Pages Posted: 22 May 2012
Date Written: May 22, 2012
The phenomenon of the global law firm has transformed the face of international law practice. The practice of law has itself become global, as lawyers play their part in the growing international market for corporate and commercial services. The global expansion of legal practice has prompted several jurisdictions to consider how their own global legal service markets should be regulated. To date, only limited scholarly consideration has been given to the practicalities of regulating the day-to-day practice of law on an international scale.
This Article attempts to shed light on methods of regulating the conduct of lawyers in the context of global law firm conflicts of interest. The Article describes the difficulties currently facing law firms engaged in cross-border practice in two jurisdictions --- the U.K. and the U.S. --- where there are significant differences in defining conflicts, determining their consentability, and applying choice of law principles to conflicts dilemmas. The Article demonstrates that the current regulatory regimes in both the U.K. and the U.S. are inadequate to serve the needs of international law practice, in light of these different approaches As it unlikely (and perhaps undesirable) that any super-regulator will, in the near future, establish a single set of conflict of interest rules for both U.K and U.S. lawyers, we put forth two sets of reform proposals. One set of proposals describes efforts both the U.K. and the U.S. could take to voluntarily harmonize their conflict rules. The other set of proposals focuses instead on the adoption of an improved choice-of-law rule, along the lines currently proposed by the ABA Commission on Ethics 2020, but with some significant changes.
Keywords: professional responsibility, legal ethics, conflicts of interest, law of lawyering, lawyers, law firms, globalization, choice of law, conflicts of laws, comparative law, international law
JEL Classification: K19, K33, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation