Lawyers in Practice: Ethical Decision Making in Context at the Baldy Center, Buffalo

(Origami buffalo thanks to ORI_Q)
I got back from Buffalo, New York, yesterday as my plane flew out being chased by lightning and thunder storms that were the tail edge of the tornadoes raging over the US.

My reason for being at the Baldy Center, University at Buffalo Law School, was because I had been invited to contribute a paper on transnational lawyering by Lynn Mather and Leslie Levin. The conference had the aim of: examining:
How do lawyers resolve ethical problems in the everyday context of law practice? What issues commonly emerge in different practice specialties and what are the norms and rules for resolving them? This is the first conference that focuses on the empirical research on lawyers' work and their actual decision making in a wide variety of practice contexts.
Participants will examine the work of lawyers in a number of practice areas, identifying one or more ethical issues that arise in the practice area. Scholars will present their research, embedding lawyers' decision making in both the professional world of ethical codes and the social and economic setting of the workplace.
It was an intensive day including papers on solo or small firm lawyers:
  • plaintiffs' lawyers--professional norms and the need to generate business
  • divorce lawyers--client grievances and client relationships
  • immigration lawyers--the lying client
While these presentations often involved cases of personal challenges, the next session moved to a seemingly more remote sphere of the corporate practice. Papers included:
  • practice groups in large law firms--embedded ethics in practice groups
  • corporate litigators--ethics in discovery
  • In-House lawyers--ethics and allegiances
  • Transnational lawyers--conflicts and identification of client
The organizational context was further explored with reference to specialist lawyers:
  • tax lawyers--clients' interests or moral stewardship?
  • securities lawyers--guardians of the public realm?
  • patent lawyers--changing roles in defensive patent applications
Finally, we looked at public interest lawyers:
  • legal services lawyers--in context of social work
  • ethics of law reform lawyering--top down or bottom up?
You can read the abstracts of the papers on the Baldy website. The presentations contained a wide variety of empirical and theoretical approaches including ethnography, interviewing, statistical analysis, philosophical investigation among others. Theoretically, the papers considered the problems of attempting to capture the nature of lawyer-client relationships in shifting contexts; how do so many different types of lawyer fit within under the umbrella of the "legal profession"? what did it mean to talk in terms of a legal profession? how were ethics and regulation being balanced against each other? and how did this operate in a globalized world?

Plenty of questions and issues. We now are redrafting our papers we hope in a more integrated way that will work in the collection. We want this book to be of benefit to students as well as fellow academics and lawyers. Students often find their professional responsibility classes bear little resemblance to practice. This is a serious attempt to bring the dilemmas of practice to the student who can begin to comprehend the complexities of modern legal practice in its variety of forms.


I had an extra day in Buffalo so my hosts, Lynn and Mike Mather, took me to see Niagara Falls. We get blase about the wonders of the world because of our constant exposure to them. I've made this mistake before in connection with the pyramids at Giza and the Taj Mahal. I almost made it again.

The Falls are big and very noisy. But as you approach them you hardly notice they are there. It's only when you look at them head on you see the long drop, the relentless pressure of water being squeezed into a smaller gap, and the mist that nearly obscures everything.

 (I never saw the owner of the shoe...)

I hadn't realized there were two sets of falls. And that you can take a boat trip around them. It's very wet as you can see from the blue people. Their raincoats are wishful thinking.

This is the second falls.

Standing below this makes me wonder who first went over by mistake...and what they were thinking.

And here are my hosts, Lynn and Mike Mather.

They took me around Buffalo itself which has some terrific architecture, especially from the time of Louis Sullivan. (See his Prudential Building.) Chicagoans will know what I mean. Sitting on the edge of Lake Erie it has at times a coastal feel which is heightened when you can drive across the border to Canada next door.