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In Dependence: The Paradox of Professional Independence and Taking Seriously the Vulnerabilities of Lawyers in Large Corporate Law Firms

Oakley, E; Vaughan, S; (2019) In Dependence: The Paradox of Professional Independence and Taking Seriously the Vulnerabilities of Lawyers in Large Corporate Law Firms. Journal of Law and Society , 46 (1) pp. 83-111. 10.1111/jols.12143. Green open access

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Abstract

In this paper, and drawing on the work of Martha Fineman and others, we deploy a vulnerability lens as an heuristic device to push against the concept of professional lawyer independence as enshrined in statute and promoted by legal services regulators. Using interviews with 53 senior partners and others from 20 elite law firms, we show how the meaning and practice of independence are profoundly mediated by the contexts, relationships and interactions of corporate lawyers’ everyday working lives. Vulnerable to competition from other firms, the demands of clients, the shift over time from ‘trusted advisor’ to ‘service provider’, regulatory requirements, pressures to make profit and so on, these corporate lawyers appeared prone to developing and normalising potentially risky and irresponsible practices. We therefore argue that a debate about corporate legal regulation is better based upon a richly theorised concept of inter-dependence which takes seriously the causes and effects of practitioner vulnerabilities in particular circumstances.

Type: Article
Title: In Dependence: The Paradox of Professional Independence and Taking Seriously the Vulnerabilities of Lawyers in Large Corporate Law Firms
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/jols.12143
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/jols.12143
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Laws
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10062252
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