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Legal ethics; Lawyers


The pressures and opportunities of globalization have dramatically changed the nature of legal practice. How and why we practice law? For whom and whose benefit? In what contexts? And on what terms? The answers to these questions are continuously changing as a result of current global trends. The communities served by lawyers, the practice contexts in which they work and the issues that they face are increasingly diverse, complex, transnational and global in character. All of these challenges demand new competencies and raise a host of new issues about ethics and professionalism. As a threshold matter, more and more lawyers engage in transnational practices, including, for example, corporate, family, labour and human rights practices. Knowledge of international and comparative legal systems and the norms of professional conduct in other jurisdictions is increasingly essential in such settings. However, beyond these self-consciously transnational contexts, it is perhaps even more important to acknowledge that few if any areas of practice remain in which legal professionals can rely solely on the knowledge of a single, domestic legal system. Local communities are microcosms of global diversity in which a multiplicity of official and unofficial legal orders and ethical systems overlap. The increasingly pluralistic nature of modern local communities demands that the vast majority of lawyers will be required to work in contexts that require cross-cultural competencies and sensitivities to diverse legal and moral perspectives. Put simply, the complexity of today’s world is not just an issue for international lawyers – it is an issue for all lawyers. As such, thinking about lawyering in a global community and how we not only practice it, but also how we learn about and regulate it, has become of central concern for practitioners, educators and regulators. That central concern is the subject of this lecture, which asks the following question: why should lawyers care about being more open to the global? In developing a response to this question, this lecture looks at three issues: pluralism, professionalism and pragmatism, all of which, together, provide a basis for an answer to this inquiry.