Boston University School of Law

Regulating Conflicts of Interest in Global Law Firms: Peace in Our Time?

Janine Griffiths-Baker
St. Mary's University College, London

Nancy J. Moore
Boston University School of Law

80 Fordham Law Review 2541 (2012)

Boston University School of Law Working Paper 12-24
(May 22, 2012)


The phenomenon of the global law firm has transformed the face of international law practice. The practice of law has itself become global, as lawyers play their part in the growing international market for corporate and commercial services. The global expansion of  legal practice has prompted several jurisdictions to consider how their own global legal service markets should be regulated. To date, only limited scholarly consideration has been given to the practicalities of regulating the day-to-day practice of law on an international scale.

This Article attempts to shed light on methods of regulating the conduct of lawyers in the context of global law firm conflicts of interest. The Article describes the difficulties currently facing law firms engaged in cross-border practice in two jurisdictions---the U.K. and the U.S.---where there are significant differences in defining conflicts, determining their consentability, and applying choice of law principles to conflicts dilemmas. The Article demonstrates that the current regulatory regimes in both the U.K. and the U.S. are inadequate to serve the needs of international law practice, in light of these different approaches As it unlikely (and perhaps undesirable) that any super-regulator will, in the near future, establish a single set of conflict of interest rules for both U.K and U.S. lawyers, we put forth two sets of reform proposals. One set of proposals describes efforts both the U.K. and the U.S. could take to voluntarily harmonize their conflict rules. The other set of proposals focuses instead on the adoption of an improved choice-of-law rule, along the lines currently proposed by the ABA Commission on Ethics 2020, but with some significant changes.

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Nancy Moore Contact Information

Boston University School of Law
765 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02215 USA
Phone: (617) 358-0501

Janine Griffiths-Baker Contact Information:

St. Mary's University College, London

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