Center for the Study of the Legal Profession


Authorized Revolution: Regulatory Disruption of the Legal Services Market

Fundamental changes in the regulation of legal services are gaining momentum across the world. The Legal Services Act of 2007 in England and Wales permits outside capital investment in law practices, authorizes lawyers and non-lawyers to join together in the same firms to provide different services, and contains other measures designed to open up the legal market to more competition from providers such as Alternative Business Structures (ABS) and others.

In the same spirit, law firm Slater & Gordon took advantage of changes in Australian regulation to become the world's first law firm to raise equity by listing on a public stock exchange. The firm has used this capital to acquire smaller personal injury and consumer litigation law firms in Australia and England. Since 2007, other countries have adopted or are considering changes inspired by the events in Britain and Australia. There is clear momentum in favor of rethinking basic assumptions about who can provide legal services and how they can do so.   

What have been the impacts of this remarkable shift, and what are its potential implications for the future of the legal profession? Applicants for ABS licenses, for instance, include not only law firms, but Big Four accounting firms, a subsidiary of British Telecom, and a venture backed by global law firm DLA Piper. These and other developments are opening up the market to fierce competition between law firms with different funding sources, and between lawyers and non-lawyers.  

What will the long-term competitive impact of this on US law firms? On US law practice more generally? Will they accelerate changes already occurring in the way that business clients purchase professional services? Could these reforms increase access to justice by enabling providers who serve individuals to achieve economies of scale that lower the cost of services? Will boundaries between lawyers and other professionals essentially disappear?

This day-long symposium will bring together scholars;regulators;and practitioners from law firms, corporate legal departments, and non-traditional legal service providers to discuss these and other questions. Anyone with an interest in the future of legal services will find this a stimulating discussion of the shape of things to come.


Symposium on the Shrinking Pyramid: Implications for Law Practice and the Legal Profession

A consensus seems to be emerging that lower demand for lawschool graduates will become a permanent feature of the legal market. This is most notably the case in large lawfirms whose business model has been based on a large number of associates at the bottom of a pyramid with a small number of equity partners at the top. Firms of all size, however, are affected by this trend.

Lower demand reflects the impact of forces such as intensified client insistence on cost-effective legal services, the growth of more widespread expertise in mapping and disaggregating legal work, the use of increasingly sophisticated technology and communication systems, the development of new forms of collaboration between clients and outside lawyers, the provision of a larger portion of legal work by in-house counsel in some corporations, and the emergence of networks and supply chains as basic units inthe provision of legal services. This symposium will explore the potential implications of this major shift in how legal work is organized and provided, and how careers in the law are unfolding.


Symposium on the Conscience and Culture of Prosecution

Sponsored by the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics and the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession. Presenters included Ofra Bikel, Documentary Filmmaker and Producer, Paul Butler, Professor of Law at George Washington, Angela Davis, Professor of Law at American University, and Bruce Green, Professor of Law at Fordham University. The keynote address was given by Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr.


Symposium on the Status of the Legal Profession: Facing the Challenges of the 21st Century

The symposium was presented by the American Inns of Court and the Georgetown University Law Center with assistance and support from the Honorable Society of the Middle Temple in London. The purpose of the symposium is to discuss timely topics relating to the practice of law and the administration of justice. Presenters included Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Lord Nicholas Phillips, President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Justice John Murray, Chief Justice of Ireland.

Welcome to the Future: Trends in the Delivery of Corporate Legal Services

This intensive one-day conference was designed to provide concrete insights into how corporate legal departments and outside service providers can collaborate to provide valuable and cost-effective legal services.

The conference featured presentations on

  1. How inside counsel select law firms and how that relationship evolves through distinct stages,
  2. How clients and service providers are attempting to define and measure the value of legal services,
  3. How service teams can draw on members' expertise to provide innovative results for clients and
  4. How clients, law firms, and other providers are attempting to organize work in a coordinated legal services supply chain.

Discussion of each topic included descriptions of specific innovative arrangements in progress or on the drawing board, as well as suggestions about what may be around the corner.


Law Firm Evolution: Brave New World or Business as Usual?

Law firms have been affected to an unprecedented degree by the current economic downturn.  Many have made deep cuts in lawyers and staff.  Others have reduced salaries and hours, rescinded outstanding offers of employment, frozen hiring, delayed start dates for incoming lawyers, and even paid graduates to forgo the positions they earlier were offered.  Many have lost clients as entire sectors of the economy have disappeared or have been radically realigned.  Are the dramatic steps that firms have taken temporary adjustments to market conditions, which will have limited long-term effect after economic recovery?  Or do they reflect fundamental changes in the business model of law firms that are likely to transform the market for legal services and the legal profession in general?  This symposium brought together scholars, practitioners, and legal professionals from around the world to discuss the future of the market for legal services, and the implications of change for the organization of law practice, legal career paths, law schools, and lawyers' sense of professional identify. 


Symposium on Empirical Research on the Legal Profession: Insights from Theory and Practice

This symposium brought together scholars, practicing lawyers, print and electronic journalists, consultants and communications experts, from the US and overseas, to discuss how empirical research on lawyers and law practice can inform our understanding of issues facing the profession. Papers focused on issues of diversity lawyer mobility, globalization and its relationship to law firms, how lawyers can use empirical research on the profession, and the coordination of legal and media strategies in representing clients.

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The Future Is Here:  Globalization and the Regulation of the Legal Profession

Jointly sponsored by The American Bar Association Center for Professional Responsibility and Standing Committee on Professional Discipline, and The Center for the Study of the Legal Profession of Georgetown University Law Center.

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Symposium on Corporate Responsibility: Law, Operations, and Strategy

The claim that business should incorporate a sense of social responsibility into the decision-making process must take account of the legal environment that companies must navigate, the operational demands that they face, and their ability to devise socially responsible strategies that further competitiveness and financial viability. This symposium featured the latest thinking on these three dimensions of corporate social responsibility.

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Symposium on the Future of the Global Law Firm

This symposium brought together scholars from a range of disciplines, legal practitioners, regulators, and consultants and experts on professional service firms to discuss a variety of forces that are likely to shape the global market for law firm services in the years to come.  Participants from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia explored issues such as the financial, organizational, and cultural dynamics of law firms; management strategies and business models in the global legal services market; law firm access to various sources of capital; and the impact of market forces on professional ethics, values, and identity.  Analysis of these issues was informed in particular by discussion of legislation in the United Kingdom authorizing nonlawyer equity investment in law firms, and of the emergence of the publicly traded law firm in Australia. Scholars and practitioners engaged in a wide-ranging dialogue that illuminated the challenges that lie ahead for law firms that aim to operate and compete on the global stage.


Symposium on Corporate Compliance: The Role of Company Counsel

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