Law Firm Ethics in the Shadow of Corporate Social Responsibility

31 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2012

See all articles by Christopher J. Whelan

Christopher J. Whelan

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law; Washington and Lee - School of Law

Neta Ziv

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law

Date Written: October 20, 2012


The notion that corporations should conduct their businesses in ways that respect the societies in which they operate has been widely discussed and analysed in recent years. Corporations are integrating social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders. Their social and ethical responsibilities of corporations have become “key issues" in discussions about their societal role. CSR practices apply not only to the corporation itself, but also to its suppliers. Through chain of supply policies, corporations impose socially responsible norms to which their suppliers must adhere. One aspect of CSR chain of supply policies pertain to provision of legal services, as CSR practices are beginning to incorporate legal services procured by the corporation from outside counsel. Consequently, corporations are gaining increasing control over the work of lawyers in a variety of areas, some of which had traditionally been under the control of the state or of law societies and bar associations. In this paper, we examine the development of CSR practices involving outside counsel and its implications for lawyers’ professionalism. We consider the phenomenon of CSR to be part of global capitalism and private regulation, which applies to lawyers’ services procured by the corporate client. CSR policies pertain to lawyers in a variety of areas: diversity and flex time employment requirements, ethics and the justice system, ADR, and reporting and gate keeping. We discuss the implication of such developments on notions of professionalism, and question assumptions about lawyers’ independence against global capitalism, where social norms are increasingly considered market assets. We conclude by expressing cautious optimism about the power of the market to redefine lawyers’ public commitments.

Suggested Citation

Whelan, Christopher J. and Ziv, Neta, Law Firm Ethics in the Shadow of Corporate Social Responsibility (October 20, 2012). Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Forthcoming, Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 63/2012, Available at SSRN:

Christopher J. Whelan (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

1 Wellington Square
Oxford, OX1 2JA
United Kingdom
+44 1993 813877 (Phone)

Washington and Lee - School of Law ( email )

Lexington, VA 24450
United States

Neta Ziv

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law ( email )

Ramat Aviv
Tel Aviv, 69978

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