Law: Lawyers Can Be the Good Guys, Too ; Last Summer, the Independent and the College of Law Invited Law Students to Write on the Subject: `Is There a Role for the Ethical Lawyer?' Simon Dartford Believes That, with Notable Exceptions, There Is

By Dartford, Simon | The Independent (London, England), May 9, 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Law: Lawyers Can Be the Good Guys, Too ; Last Summer, the Independent and the College of Law Invited Law Students to Write on the Subject: `Is There a Role for the Ethical Lawyer?' Simon Dartford Believes That, with Notable Exceptions, There Is


Dartford, Simon, The Independent (London, England)


COMMENTING ON the Teapot Dome scandal, a young Richard Nixon said: "When I grow up, I want to be an honest lawyer so that things like that can't happen." In fact, Watergate demonstrated that lawyers could do good things. The spectacle became a television phenomenon in which the special prosecutors were the good guys who pursued the corrupt president.

In recent years, however, the public's perception of the legal profession has diminished on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1998, 31,672 members of the public complained about their solicitors. Backbench MPs frequently push for regulatory changes and increased competition. It would not be entirely unfair to use the adjectives greedy, pompous, corrupt, sexist, snobbish and incompetent in depicting at least some elements of the profession.

Added to these problems is the background of globalisation. The march of the Big Five accountancy firms is symbolic. The professional services conglomerates now offer services in practically every sphere of commercial advice. Pure audit, the staple 10 years ago, is perceived as a loss leader, a means to devour more lucrative prizes. The one-stop shops offer tax, management consultancy, IT, corporate finance, and increasingly legal products in a quest to dominate the global professional services marketplace. Globalisation is rapidly seeing the turreted fences around fragmented national markets dismantled in favour of the fierce arena of a seamless global market, in which massive corporations compete for dominance. Unlike the other issues facing the profession, like legal aid and regulation, it is something that cannot be affected by lobbying national government. There is no reason why the legal, or indeed any, industry should escape the fate that has befallen many others already.

What exactly does this mean? All that is certain is that the stakes are enormous. At the top end of the market the fees earned by accountants, investment bankers and lawyers advising on mergers and acquisitions are at record levels. The fees for professional advice on a $100bn- plus acquisition, for instance, may run into many hundreds of millions. Mammoth companies spend more than small change on legal advice each year. When government investigators attempt to break them up for abusing their monopolies, they spend even more.

Similar principles permeate the high street. But here, many traditional lawyers' tasks seem to be threatened with extinction. The lifting of the monopoly on conveyance has led to cut-price specialists offering services at around half the cost of those offered by solicitors. In a world economy where competition reigns supreme, how is the lawyer to meet the challenge thrown down by the bean-counters and other interlopers? Where is the boundary between professionalism and business? Is there a boundary at all? Is there a role for the ethical lawyer? Will commercial pressures aggravate the problems?

In the City, in particular, pressures to perform in an already crowded marketplace have been enhanced by the arrival of more American firms. The Americans work longer hours, pay higher wages, and despite the view shared by some that they are only here to satisfy the chauvinistic tendencies of some of the US multinationals resident in London, are after a much bigger slice of the international pie.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Law: Lawyers Can Be the Good Guys, Too ; Last Summer, the Independent and the College of Law Invited Law Students to Write on the Subject: `Is There a Role for the Ethical Lawyer?' Simon Dartford Believes That, with Notable Exceptions, There Is
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?