Large Law Firm Culture Project

This project has been funded by the Law School Admission Council, and its findings will be published in book published by the University of Chicago Press, entitled BigLaw: Money and Meaning in the Modern Law Firm.

Since its rise in the late nineteenth century, the large corporate law firm has been a persistent focus of debate about the nature of law practice as both a business enterprise and a professional undertaking. Few can deny that large firms are now major business enterprises. At the same time, large firms also are organizations whose lawyers are members of what traditionally has been regarded as a profession. In this book, we draw on in-depth interviews with more than 250 partners in major United States law firms to assess the claim that business concerns are eclipsing professional values in law firm practice. We examine how large firms are responding to intensifying competition, what this means for lawyers’ understandings of themselves as professionals, and the degree to which firms are attempting to fashion distinctive organizational cultures that reflect their own particular balances between business demands and professional values.

Split-Second Ethics: Neuroscience and Rapid Moral Decision-Making

This project is funded by the program on Complex Moral Problems at Georgetown University. It is exploring the implications of work in neuroscience on moral perception, deliberation, and behavior (all of which we characterize as “moral judgment”) for ethics training in the professions, including the military. Neuroscientific research suggests that networks in the brain that involve affectively-laden processing play a more prominent role in moral judgment that traditionally assumed. At the same time, this process is not simply a product of unreflective emotions, but is a complex non-conscious computational process that reflects ongoing learning about the affective consequences of morally significant behavior. This involves both learning about what types of situations have moral salience and the moral evaluation of various kinds of responses to them. Research thus suggests moral judgment has both cognitive and affective features that make it difficult to classify it as purely deliberative or emotional.

Global Terrorism and Collective Responsibility

Professor Mitt Regan is Senior Researcher on this project, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Oxford, Delft University in the Netherlands, and Charles Sturt University in Australia. The project is funded by the European Research Council, and is studying the design of military, police, and intelligence institutions in liberal democracies with respect to counterterrorism. The focus is on both the efficacy of the range of measures adopted by such institutions and their compatibility with the values of liberal democracy. The project homepage is http://counterterrorismethics.com.