We are living in a moment of history when we are being invited—forced!—to consider the globalisation of just about everything. Why not a global code of legal ethics? The need, some might say, is obvious: for the first time, we are actually experiencing transnational legal practise on a grand scale. Very large law firms with hundreds of partners and employees in dozens of jurisdictions act for clients involved in complex transactions or disputes which also reach across jurisdictional boundaries.2 Surely, the argument runs, we need a code of ethics which has a commensurate transnational reach: which does not depend on regulatory structures of any particular State; which is cosmopolitan in character and not embedded in particularistic legal and/or professional traditions, cultures and organisations; and—ideally—which deals explicitly with issues which are commonly encountered in transnational legal practice. Nothing less would serve the interests of clients who entrust their affairs to these firms, or the interests of the world community which is affected by their professional exertions in international negotiations, agencies and tribunals. This logic may be powerful; however this article attempts to prove that it has its flaws.
Legal Ethics is an international and interdisciplinary journal devoted to the field of legal ethics. The journal provides an intellectual meeting ground for academic lawyers, practitioners and policy-makers to debate developments shaping the ethics of law and its practice at the micro and macro levels. Its focus is broad enough to encompass empirical research on the ethics and conduct of the legal professions and judiciary, studies of legal ethics education and moral development, ethics development in contemporary professional practice, the ethical responsibilities of law schools, professional bodies and government, and jurisprudential or wider philosophical reflections on law as an ethical system and on the moral obligations of individual lawyers.