Trust in the World of the Global Lawyer

Robert K. Vischer , Big Law and the Marginalization of Trust, 25 GEORGETOWN J. LEGAL ETHICS ____ (forthcoming 2011), available at SSRN. Susan Fortney In many respects, law practice involves a brave new work of global lawyering. On a daily basis, lawyers from Main Street to Wall Street represent clients with transnational legal needs. At the same time, lawyers face pressure to reduce the costs of delivering legal services. Cost containment initiatives include outsourcing legal work to subcontractors who provide services at a lower cost. Whether legal work is sent to Indiana or India, outsourcing results in less personal connections between clients and the lawyers who originally were retained to handle the representation. Increasingly, in-house counsel unbundle the corporation's legal work, dividing the work among numerous law firms rather than relying on one firm to meet needs on a full-service basis. For many, these trends threaten the very fabric of the trust relationship between clients and their attorneys. In his forthcoming article, Big Law and the Marginalization of Trust, Professor Robert Vischer examines the role of trust in the current climate and economic reality of global lawyers. As the title suggests, the article considers whether trust is a casualty of the trends in the structure, operation, and regulation of law firms. Rather than simply declaring trust dead, Professor Vischer persuasively explains why trust is of vital importance to lawyers, the clients we serve, and society. The article is particularly interesting in providing context for understanding the concept of trust and the role it plays in professional relationships. Professor Vischer starts by discussing the nature of trust and the difference between cognitive and affective trust, referring to the definition of trust as a "state of mind that enables its possessor to be willing to make herself vulnerable to another-that is to rely on another despite a positive risk that the other will act in a way that can harm the trustor." (quoting A Cognitive Theory of Trust by Claire A. Hill and Erin Ann O'Hara). The discussion of vulnerability is particularly timely given that a few experts have urged the 2020 Ethics Commission to consider adopting separate ethics rules to regulate large law firms that represent sophisticated clients who can presumably protect themselves and are therefore not vulnerable. This relates to Professor Vischer's observation that different potential clients may require different degrees and manifestations of trust. Continue reading "Trust in the World of the Global Lawyer"

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