I spent a wonderful two days at the University of Birmingham at the beginning of this week. The reason was the Corporate Lawyers Symposium organised by the excellent Dr Steven Vaughan. As well as presenting a paper (link below), I was able to listen to a series of excellent presentations on corporate law and ethics.
My two take away points were these. First, we are seeing a real resurgence in academic circles of the study of legal ethics. This is very welcome as we need an ethical underpinning of how legal professionals behave in England and Wales which goes beyond compliance. Second, the SRA is likely to rely on this resurgence as it takes a more ethics based approach to its reform program. These are interesting times.
To my mind the future lies not in trying to manage the market whether by separate business rules or heightening the regulation of in house lawyers. The answer lies in re-emphasising the ethical basis of the legal professions. In the case of in house lawyers this will mean working through what are difficult issues as to what is the right thing to do. With a greater emphasis on ethics and the professions that will leave regulators to focus resources on the key risks. That in turn will give consumers a clear understanding of why they may be better off with a regulated professional.