In Dependence: The Paradox of Professional Independence and Taking Seriously the Vulnerabilities of Lawyers in Large Corporate Law Firms

29 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2019

See all articles by Emma Oakley

Emma Oakley

University of Birmingham - Birmingham Law School

Steven Vaughan

Faculty of Laws, University College London

Date Written: March 2019

Abstract

In this article, and drawing on the work of Martha Fineman and others, we deploy a vulnerability lens as an heuristic device to push against the concept of professional lawyer independence as enshrined in statute and promoted by legal services regulators. Using interviews with 53 senior partners and others from 20 large corporate law firms, we show how the meaning and practice of independence are profoundly mediated by the contexts, relationships, and interactions of corporate lawyers’ everyday working lives. Vulnerable to competition from other firms, the demands of clients, the shift over time from ‘trusted advisor’ to ‘service provider', regulatory requirements, pressures to make profit, and so on, these corporate lawyers appeared prone to developing and normalizing potentially risky and irresponsible practices. We therefore argue that a debate about corporate legal regulation is better based upon a richly theorized concept of interdependence that takes seriously the causes and effects of practitioner vulnerabilities in particular circumstances.

Suggested Citation

Oakley, Emma and Vaughan, Steven, In Dependence: The Paradox of Professional Independence and Taking Seriously the Vulnerabilities of Lawyers in Large Corporate Law Firms (March 2019). Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 46, Issue 1, pp. 83-111, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3338002 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jols.12143

Emma Oakley (Contact Author)

University of Birmingham - Birmingham Law School ( email )

Edgbaston
Birmingham, AL B15 2TT
United Kingdom

Steven Vaughan

Faculty of Laws, University College London ( email )

Gower St
London WC1E OEG, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.laws.ucl.ac.uk/people/steven-vaughan/

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