Thursday, June 04, 2009

Lawyer-Client Relationships

Banker on Bishopsgate
(Darrell Berry)

I have just posted on SSRN the final revised version of my paper on lawyer-client relationships. It is "Ambiguous Allegiances in the Lawyer-Client Relationship: The Case of Bankers and Lawyers".

The paper deconstructs the prototypical dyadic lawyer-client relationship in the context of corporate transactions. Most lawyer-client analyses view the relationship as a direct unmediated one between the two. I argue this is illusory and that without understanding the context of business transactions, much about the relationship is omitted or missed from analysis.

At a minimum the relationship is triadic. If, for example, a client is borrowing funds from a bank for an investment, even though the client's lawyer's primary duty is to the client, the lawyer always has an eye on the future business that might come from the bank. The lawyer's allegiances are pulled more ways than one.

For example, Jonathan Knee in The Accidental Investment Banker: Inside the Decade That Transformed Wall Street (2006), wrote of one deal:
This episode highlights an important and inherent conflict between banker and client in sales processes. After a successful transaction, the client disappears and any future business will come from the universe of suitors. This creates a sometime irrestible incentive to provide, or give the appearance of providing, some form of subtle preferential treatment to those most likely to offer something in return at a later date.
The paper uses a mix of interview data, ethnography, and documentary sources. I would appreciate any comments and feedback.


Anonymous said...

"prototypical dyadic lawyer-client relationship in the context of corporate transactions"

What a load of meaningless gobbledegook.

John Flood said...

Dear Anonymous

Thank you for your thoughtful comment so full of wisdom and insight.

Two points: First, you read the post, so thanks. Second, you spelled all the words correctly.

Personal Injury attorney Houston said...

Lawyer-client relationship should be more friendly rather than professional.It will help both lawyer and client.

John Flood said...

Thank you, PIAH. I believe your sentiment would apply to some lawyer-client relationships but not all. A significant element of the legal profession today engages in transactional work in which the deal is the main component. After its completion there may be no further relationship. Moreover there isn't much room for the relationship to evolve beyond business basics. Cost is a big factor here.

This is the type of relationship I focussed on in my paper. And I've attempted to show some of its complexities and subtleties.

That can obtain in other types of lawyer-client business, as perhaps your, where there is scope for a relationship to develop. But even so, research tends to run counter to your view. Two studies come to mind: Douglas E Rosenthal, Lawyer and Client: Who's in Charge? (about PI lawyers and clients); and Kenneth Mann, Defending White Collar Crime.

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