External ownership and the forked tongue of ethics

Nine US general counsel have come to the conclusion, reported in Legal Futures, that there is no need for external ownership of law firms and “that the inevitable chipping away at the profession’s professionalism ultimately will do a disservice not just to the business clients we serve, but to all clients who seek the trusted and confidential advice of counsel”. I would not presume to disagree with their judgement about their own clients. But I would seriously beg to differ with the general sentiment implicit in the conclusion that ‘non-lawyer’ (I still hate that expression) ownership will necessarily erode professionalism, undermine lawyer-client relationships, compromise confidentiality, and encourage unethical, profit-maximising behaviour. Continue reading