Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Trust and the Global Law Firm

This may not fit squarely within the Catholic legal theory genre, but I'm guessing that attorneys who derive value from the Catholic legal theory project are, not coincidentally, more likely than not to see the practice of law as a moral and relational endeavor.  In this regard, readers might be interested in my new paper, Trust and the Global Law Firm: Are Relationships of Trust Still Central to the Corporate Legal Services Market?  Here's the abstract:

This article explores the concept of trust as it relates to the lawyer’s role and explains how recent trends in the structure, operation, and regulation of law firms may make the traditionally “thick” type of attorney-client trust more elusive, particularly in the context of corporate legal practice. Trust may lose its place as a defining element of the attorney-client relationship as the relationship itself becomes less personal, more distant, and more fungible. At the same time, trust may become even more important to consumers in a globalized economy, thereby giving lawyers an opportunity to reassert their value against increasing competition from providers from other jurisdictions and disciplines. In this regard, the article draws an important distinction between cognitive and affective forms of trust, and suggests that attorney-client trust cannot be captured fully in the language of cost-benefit calculation, for the lawyer’s role presumes a relationship of willingly encountered vulnerability. The story of trust’s marginalization in corporate legal practice may resonate most powerfully with lawyers themselves, who may increasingly struggle to find meaning in their work, and with clients, who may discover that technicians work efficiently until a problem calls for counsel that is not strictly technical. More broadly, though, the story of trust’s marginalization should be of interest to a society that has long empowered attorneys to function as quasi-public actors, for the weakening of trust directly compromises the attorney’s capacity and inclination to introduce public values into the representation. After analyzing the market and regulatory trends exerting pressure on a more relationship-centered type of trust, the article offers some tentative suggestions on how the profession can keep relational trust at the center of the lawyer’s role, even in a globalized, efficiency-driven profession.

I welcome feedback, either in the comments or by email.

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Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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