Do institutional clients threaten lawyer independence? UCL Event

An event of interest to in-house lawyers and private practitioners which is of relevance to our ongoing project on ethical leadership and in-house lawyers is taking place early in the New Year.

Do Institutional Clients Threaten Lawyer Independence? Location: UCL Marquee (Main Quad), Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 6pm. Seminar format discussion aimed at regulators, academics and practitioners. Book here

Dr Steven Vaughan will draw on research he has conducted over the last year to ask whether institutional clients threaten lawyers’ independence.

The relationship between large commercial law firms and their clients and the impact of these relationships on professional independence, ethics, standards and risk is of central importance to the effective regulation of the solicitors’ profession.

There has been a shift in the standard dynamic of lawyer-client relationships in large firms. Clients now hold significant power over their firms.

This is due to a  complex of factors: increasing competition for legal services; the growth of General Counsel; the relative size of clients to their firms; and the ongoing impacts of the financial crisis.

From over 100 interviews with corporate finance lawyers and COLPS in 30 top 100 law firms, Steven will set out his concerns as to the potential for institutional clients to threaten lawyers’ independence.

In particular, his talk will focus on the private regulation of professional lawyers via contract (i.e. the use of law firm panels and outside counsel guidelines), and the practice of what he terms ‘shadow clients’ (whereby third parties – e.g. borrowers – pay the fees of, and have a powerful voice in the appointment of, their lender’s lawyers).

Download report prepared by Steven, with Claire Coe, for the SRA on ‘Independence, Representation and Risk’

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