The globalisation of regulation of the legal profession
The thesis investigates the nature and regulation of the international practices of large commercial law firms. The overseas work of City solicitors, German commercial lawyers and US corporate lawyers is examined; almost seventy interviews were undertaken with lawyers and regulators based within the jurisdictions of England and Wales and Germany. A wide variety of literature, ranging from the fields of globalisation and regulation to the sociology of the professions, contextualises the empirical research. It is argued that the processes of globalisation have intensified within the last quarter of this century. The heightened internationalisation of business has impacted upon the worlds of many professionals, including those of lawyers in large law firms. Many of the largest law firms are moving to more commercialised forms of practice, where entrepreneurship is highly valued. Indeed, one of the reasons why foreign offices are opened is to take advantage of "green-field" sites abroad. However, law firms' strategies do vary; the thesis aims to tease out some of the differences in the international practices of the law firms investigated. In so doing, it cautions against over-generalising when discussing the overseas strategies and experience of "mega-law firms". Nevertheless, international developments do test the limits of current regulation. Large law firms often operate beyond the regulatory concerns of professional associations yet several features of their practice are worrying. For instance, the tendency of commercial lawyers not to consider anything other than their clients' immediate interests (to act as "hired guns") calls into question the legitimacy of regulatory systems. The thesis proposes a programme of reform to address such concerns.