Lawyers' Business: Conflicts of Duties Arising from Lawyers' Business Models

Legal Ethics 14 (2):173-192 (2012)
Abstract
In Australia, since 2004, there has been a move to expand the range of models for legal practice. Lawyers may now incorporate a legal practice, which may have non-legal directors and shareholders. They may also enter into a partnership with a range of non-legal professional partners. This change is happening at the same time that legal practice culture is moving from a professional service model to a business-oriented model. Increased pressures have been thrown into the mix by the global financial crisis and the downturn in the legal market. Inevitably, these changes have created new conflict problems. When a lawyer is responsible to both clients and shareholders, how can that conflict be resolved? What are the roles of non-legal directors or partners? What if they have ethical or legal duties which conflict with a lawyer?s duty to a client? When a corporate legal business is listed on the stock exchange, what pressure may that bring to bear on the business model of the legal practice? How can all of these issues be resolved in grim financial times? The author will examine all of these issues in light of Australian and international experiences with new lawyering patterns and the global financial crisis
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