On December 8 and 9, the Stein Center for Law and Ethics hosted an international legal ethics conference that brought more than 50 law professors and lawyers to the Law School from around the world. The theme of the conference was “Regulation of Legal and Judicial Services: Comparative and International Perspectives.”
Participants hailed from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Israel, Hong Kong, Kosovo, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay, and the United States.
The conference built on the success of the International Legal Ethics Conference hosted at Fordham in July 2016, which was attended by more than 400 legal ethics scholars discussing more than 80 different topics. This time around, participants discussed papers on a dozen different topics. The papers will be published next year in the Fordham International Law Journal.
The two-day conference began with a welcome by Professor Bruce Green, who holds Fordham’s Stein Chair and directs the Law School’s Stein Center. Professor Deborah Rhode of Stanford Law School, who previously came to Fordham as a visiting distinguished professor, followed with introductory remarks. She addressed the history and significance of legal ethics scholarship from a comparative and international perspective. She also highlighted two themes running through the conference papers: 1) the question of “who should regulate lawyers and how should oversight processes be structured,” and 2) the issue of “professional independence and oversight.”
Six papers were discussed each day, with all participants either presenting papers or commenting on others’ papers. Most papers were co-authored by academics from different countries, which provided a comparative perspective. For instance, one pair of authors compared prosecutors and their conduct in Canada and France; another compared the role of non-lawyers in the Japanese and Singaporean attorney disciplinary systems; a third compared state efforts to promote access to legal services in South Africa and the United States.
The collaborations also offered an opportunity to combine insider and outsider perspectives on problems facing the bench and bar. Two papers examined efforts to reform the legal professions, the first examining Russia, which has hundreds of thousands of unlicensed legal practitioners, and the other exploring the South Pacific, where lawyers are also unlicensed but number only in the dozens. Two other papers described challenges to judicial independence and accountability in Eastern Europe, one focusing on Slovakia and the other focusing on Poland. All of these offered a dual insider-outsider perspective.
Professor Paolo Galizzi, who directs Fordham Law’s clinic on international law and development in Africa, was among the Fordham participants. He and Professor Kofi Abotsi of Ghana presented their co-authored paper on the regulation of the Ghana bar. Professor Russell Pearce, Edward and Marilyn Bellet Chair in Legal Ethics, Morality, and Religion and co-director of the Stein Center, commented on a paper on the globalization of Chinese law firms, which was co-authored by Ding Xiangshun of China and Judith McMorrow of Boston College Law School. A third, Neta Ziv, a Tel Aviv law professor who has been a visiting professor at Fordham and a senior fellow of the Stein Center, presented her findings on the work of lawyers defending Palestinians in Israeli military courts.
The conference also included framing remarks by Professor Alice Woolley of Canada, the current president of the International Association of Legal Ethics, which co-sponsored the conference. She identified some of the benefits of discussing the legal professions of different countries.
“While there is some local variation, the lessons from one jurisdiction can translate fairly cleanly to another,” she said. “Some legal ethics problems are international in nature; they cross international borders, or are subject to international regulation. If we are engaged with the world, there is a huge amount to be said for learning about things outside our own experience.”
Participants expressed appreciation to Fordham Law for hosting a global exchange of knowledge and ideas about the legal professions and judiciaries in many different countries, and for the chance to interact with colleagues writing in their field. They were particularly grateful to Sarah Leberstein, the Stein Center’s new associate director, who played a key organizational and administrative role.
Professor Green closed the program by thanking the participants for traveling long distances, working diligently on their papers, and engaging enthusiastically in discussions.
“For more than a quarter century, we have been guided by the vision of our center’s founder, Lou Stein,” Green said, following the event. “He wanted Fordham to advance ethics for the benefit of the legal profession nationally and internationally. This conference truly expressed his vision, and he would have been thrilled by its success.”