International Lawyers As Disrupters of Corruption: Globalizing Influences and Lessons from Africa’s Most Populous Country – Nigeria

Northwestern Journal of Human Rights (2020, Forthcoming)

36 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2020 Last revised: 17 Feb 2020

See all articles by Jayanth K. Krishnan

Jayanth K. Krishnan

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Date Written: January 8, 2020


Be it bribery, embezzlement, or the abuse of public trust, corruption poses a major challenge to global security and democratic governance, along with undermining the rule of law, especially within the Global South. Key to this phenomenon is understanding how lawyers, in particular, are enabling but also disrupting this epidemic. Unfortunately, the literature on this subject is lacking. This study, therefore, offers a nuanced story of globalization and the complicated role that lawyers play in corruption, by relying on the ideal case study of Nigeria – a crucial Global South market that has the largest population on the African continent. While Nigeria has been able to remain a democracy since 1999 (albeit fragilely), private sector and government officials, including the current Nigerian president, concede that corruption is the country’s biggest problem.

At the same time, as this study demonstrates, in Nigeria today there is a small but growing group of globally acute lawyers who are aggressively resisting the entrenched corruption that besieges this environment. By virtue of the opportunities provided by globalization, this cohort is not bound to the parochial interests that have long harmed Nigeria. Yet, these lawyers also work within a larger profession that is conservative, complicated, and at times itself corrupt; and so, to what extent do these factors affect the ability of these globally focused lawyers to enact change?

The answer to this question is critical because it helps to unlock an enduring puzzle as to who are the agents best situated to lead a country out of its mired, corrupt history and onto the global stage as a respected power. For other nations, particularly in the Global South, which are also seeking to strengthen their rule of law regimes, the lessons from this study will be instructive in determining whether lawyers who value – and are part of – global networks are capable of curbing corruption within their own domestic contexts.

Keywords: Legal Profession, Nigeria, Corruption, Corporate Lawyers, Human Rights, Comparative Law

Suggested Citation

Krishnan, Jayanth K., International Lawyers As Disrupters of Corruption: Globalizing Influences and Lessons from Africa’s Most Populous Country – Nigeria (January 8, 2020). Northwestern Journal of Human Rights (2020, Forthcoming). Available at SSRN: or

Jayanth K. Krishnan (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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