Legal education, globalization, and cultures of professional practice.

Faulconbridge, James and Muzio, Daniel (2009) Legal education, globalization, and cultures of professional practice. Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, 22 (4). pp. 1335-1359. ISSN 1041-5548

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Increasing interest in quantitative and qualitative empirical legal research has yielded a range of insights into the legal profession and law firms over the past decade. For example, studies of legal education have provided a clearer picture of the role of law schools in the production of lawyers’ identity but also in the unintentional reproduction of gender and race biases in the legal profession. In the US context, the recent Carnegie Foundation report entitled ‘Educating Lawyers’ has highlighted why such research is important. The report points to the need for education that develops individuals with skills suited to the complexity and diversity of legal practice and the need for education that more firmly instills ethical and social values in practitioners. Similar issues have been highlighted in the UK, most notably in the First Report on Legal Education and Training in 1996. In the context of the globalization of the legal profession and law firms, empirical research of training and education is especially important. Debates about the impacts of globalization on the legal profession are now well developed. Yet the way structures and processes of legal education interact with and may even be changed by processes of globalization has received considerably less attention than debates about the relevance of curriculum content for ‘global lawyers’. This is significant because existing theoretical framings of the legal profession place education at the centre of explanations of everything from processes of closure (the creation of barriers that limit the title ‘lawyer’ to those holding certain qualifications) to processes of identity formation and the understanding of fiduciary responsibilities in practitioners. As a result, the impacts of processes of globalization on the very structure of legal education, the regulation of education providers and the role of education in maintaining professional values and competency levels are all in urgent need of analysis. This paper, therefore, develops two main avenues of discussion about the importance of empirical legal studies of education in the context of globalization. First, it argues that ‘control’ of the professions through forms of closure based on education is increasingly undergoing important changes as the national arena of regulation is complemented by and increasingly coexists with transnational arenas. This evolution is significant as it raises questions in relation to long-held assumptions about the construction and maintenance of nationally controlled legal professions, a situation in which legal education is assumed to have a central role because it ensures minimum standards of knowledge and the existence of agreed ethical principles at the national scale. Second, the paper argues that changes in the location of professional education per se also have important implications for the legal profession. The growing importance of vocational education outside of universities and the way (global) law firms increasingly use selective recruitment and post-qualification education to mould the practice of lawyers suggests the university is increasingly only one of the many sites in which professional development and identity formation occurs. This suggests it is increasingly difficult to control professional practices solely through university-level legal education. In particular, the paper identifies the firm as a missing and potentially fundamental actor in processes of legal training and professional formation and highlights some of the ethical and sociological implications arising from this ‘organizational turn’ in studies of legal education.

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Journal Article
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Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics
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17 Nov 2009 11:27
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19 Sep 2023 00:23