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David Trubek: Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies: Preliminary Thoughts about the GLEE Project

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Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies: Preliminary Thoughts about the GLEE Project

David Trubek

Presentation at the Conference on the Chinese Legal Profession

KoGuan Law School, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

June 2011

Thank you for an opportunity to discuss the GLEE project. We are in the process of producing an overview document that will describe the project in some detail. At this point, I just want to pass on a few thoughts of my own about GLEE.

The GLEE project is a multi-national effort to explore the development of a major corporate legal services market in emerging economies and assesses the significance of this development for the legal order in each country, economic, social, and political development, and global governance. Founded by Harvard Law School and the University of Wisconsin Law School, GLEE involves scholars and partner institutions in Brazil, India and China.

 

1. The rise of the corporate law sector

 

The starting point for the GLEE project is the remarkable rise of the corporate law sector in Brazil, India and China.  In each country we find major domestic law firms, large in-house legal offices, and to one degree or another, the presence of foreign law firms.  Small domestic firms have grown into large global institutions with many offices and as many as 1000 lawyers.  Corporate legal offices have expanded. Both domestic firms and the in-house counsel’s offices of national companies have added international expertise. Foreign firms have sought to enter this market and have met with some success despite restrictions on the roles that can be played by foreign lawyers. And the in-house counsel offices of foreign firms operating in these countries have become increasingly important. To cope with the transnational nature of many of the legal issues faced by companies in these countries, a variety of formal and informal hybrid arrangements have evolved to facilitate the integration of global and local knowledge.

 

2. Mapping the rise of the corporate law sector

 

GLEE’s first priority is to map the rise of the corporate law sector in each country. In China, none of this existed 30 years ago. In Brazil and India 30 years ago a few medium size local firms and a couple of foreign ones serviced the international sector.  GLEE wants to know what has led to the phenomenal rate of growth in all three countries. How did local lawyers go about creating a new type of legal services organizations? What was the contribution of foreign law firms? How is business allocated among the three potential providers (domestic firms, foreign firms, in house offices)? What tensions and conflicts exist?  What role do the organized bar and the state respectively play in shaping this market? What expertise is demanded and how is it developed? What differences are there in the trajectories of domestic firms, in-house offices, and foreign firms among the three countries?

 

3. Exploring unique features of emerging economy corporate law practice

 

GLEE seeks to determine the developmental trajectories of domestic firms in Brazil, India and China. What paths have they taken and what organizational forms have evolved in these markets? Did these firms follow paths similar to those that led to the growth of this sector in the US and Europe or are these countries evolving new models of practice and organization? Has this been a process of diffusion and mimesis, or are there unique features to the structure and organization of the sector in the three countries? If there are unique features, are there lessons to be derived for legal practice in the US and elsewhere?

 

4. Assessing the significance of the corporate law sector

 

In addition to mapping the rise of the corporate law sector in these countries, GLEE seeks to assess the broader implications of this development for the countries and for the world. We will look at four issues:

The legal order

The rise of corporate law in emerging economies constitutes a major change in the domestic legal order. Large and powerful institutions have emerged setting off shock waves in other sectors of the legal system. The corporate sector affects and is affected by developments in the rest of the profession, the judiciary, public interest practice, and legal education.  The corporate bar is emerging as new elite in the profession. How does this new eliterelate to traditional leaders of the profession?  What effect does the growth of this sector have on courts: for example, does the rise of this sector increase or decrease access to justice?  Support or hinder representation of underrepresented interests?  Facilitate or repress the organization of NGOs and other forms of public interest advocacy? Does the corporate law sector produce pressures for changes in legal education? Does it respond to initiatives from the law schools? Is the sector (or its separate components) organized and what role do its representatives play in forming policies for the legal order?

Economic and social development

Does the rise of the corporate law sector contribute to economic and social development? Do the new firms and new structures lead to more efficient allocation of resources, higher growth, or better run companies? What effect does this sector have on equity? Is a strong and affluent corporate sector part of the trend towards increased income inequality, or might the sector support policies that help retard this trend?

Political development

How does the corporate law sector affect the polity in each country? Does it support general policies and institutional innovations that will increase the transparency and accountability of government? Does it contribute to more participation and better policy making or just strengthen the voice of existing elites in state policy?  Does it support or repress the creation of countervailing institutions like NGOs and public interest firms?

Global Governance

Does the presence of a large and sophisticated corporate law sector affect each country’s ability to operate effectively in global institutions and their capacity to act as a bloc in global governance? Does the existence of a strong corporate law sector make it easier to use WTO law both to open markets and protect domestic space? Manage investment disputes? Do these firms play a role in advising each government on ways to change the rules of the global order? Does this sector contribute to BRICS solidarity? Are there networks that bring representatives of the corporate law sector in these countries together and do they help their governments frame common responses to global issues?

5. Devising a methodology and creating a network.

GLEE is a socio-legal project that must draw on many research traditions and literatures. Although the sociology of the legal profession provides a core for GLEE’s work, the project also draws from research on professional services organizations, development studies, and the global governance literature including the new field of BRICS studies. Because the study of the legal profession is just emerging in the target countries, GLEE must help build this field while seeking to create its own methodology through a fusion of the legal profession, law and development, and global governance traditions.

To carry out the work in Brazil, India and China, GLEE is creating a network of scholars and institutions that will work together to conduct studies of each country and carry out comparative analyses of common issues.  The network currently includes Harvard Law School, the University of Wisconsin Law School, Direito GV, the law school of FGV in São Paulo, and the KoGuan Law School of the  Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Other partners will be added in the near future.