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Robel: Preparing for seamlessly global profession

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Indiana Lawyer Commentary

By Lauren K. Robel
 

robel-lauren-dean-mug Robel

What does the future hold for the law students who began their studies a few weeks ago in Bloomington and across the United States? As the press fills with concerns about the economic viability of a law degree, and the fragile economic climate continues, how should law schools be reimagining the education they provide to students who will be practicing well into the middle of this century? An important part of the answer to that question involves grappling seriously with the effects of globalization on legal practice and the profession.

I saw a part of what the future holds for my students in the office of Shardul Shroff, managing partner of the largest law firm in India, Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co. Mr. Shroff was demonstrating the phenomenal teleconferencing system that permits the firm to engage in commercial arbitration from its Delhi offices, but attach jurisdiction anywhere in the world. In the Amarchand conference room, as in many of its U.S. counterparts, practice is seamlessly global.

I had seen the future as well in my conversations with the young cosmopolitan lawyers at S & R Associates, literally across the street. Educated in multiple countries including our own, with resumes that include Wall Street law firms, these lawyers had built a successful capital transactions practice that ignores national borders. One of their latest deals had them working with Armachand, Latham & Watkins, and Shearman & Sterling on an IPO on the NASDAQ.

The formal lawyer regulatory structure, both here and abroad, is increasingly overmatched by facts on the ground. While foreign lawyers are prohibited from joining the Indian bar, many Indian firms, like their counterparts in Brazil and China, work with foreign lawyers daily. And they have generously welcomed students from Indiana University Maurer School of Law, as have other firms, NGOs, and corporate legal offices in Delhi, São Paulo, and Beijing. These students gained legal and cultural experience and an understanding of their professional counterparts as part of the school’s Center on the Global Legal Profession’s programs. Increasing the number of our students who spend the summer after their first year in internships in these markets is a high priority for our faculty.

Need we even ask why? The economics of globalization are a stunning given in these students’ lives, and these countries have enviable growth rates: in India, close to 8 percent annually; in China, over 10 percent. As one of the students who worked in India said admiringly, “The zeitgeist of India is growth.” An increasingly large part of the legal work that emanates from business will come from these growing economies. Our students worked on an array of legal issues this summer, from resisting an Interpol “red notice” to addressing legal questions about Internet gambling, to the issues surrounding microfinance for street vendors. The legal issues our students addressed flow across borders, involve both national and supra-national regulatory structures and institutions, and increasingly involve teams of lawyers from multiple countries. Much of the legal world, both foreign and domestic, is now transnational.

And this geographically porous legal practice is not simply – or even mostly –the domain of international law. I talked last week to a lawyer in a single-person office in an Indiana town of 2,000 who has outsourced research to India – and been quite satisfied with the results. Other Indiana lawyers deal daily with the legal effects of a smaller and flatter world on families and small businesses. “Thinking like a lawyer” is, for this generation of students, necessarily a global endeavor.

If the zeitgeist of the developing world is growth, that of the academic world is global mobility. Indeed, we are awash in it, from the Indian, Chinese, and Korean lawyers who assume that career advancement includes a degree from overseas, to that admiring Maurer student who went from his Indian internship to our joint-degree MBA program in Seoul. The leader of one of our Indian partner institutions is a human-rights lawyer with degrees from India, Oxford and Harvard. His legal career took him through Singapore and Tokyo, and his understanding of the legal needs of the global future is existential and deep. He recruits faculty and students from around the world. Our academic institutions must be equally adept at understanding this future, and in close conversation with our global counterparts, if we are to prepare students to meet those challenges effectively.

While the U.S. and the U.K. have been the destinations of choice for these globally oriented lawyers and academics, nothing about that arrangement is written in stone. Asian countries increasingly offer J.D. degrees with common-law and transnational curricula, as does Australia. Keeping the U.S. law school experience attractive to these students is as important to the way we train American lawyers, who need to develop their own global networks, as it is to the Chinese lawyers who want to understand what has made the U.S. legal system so durable.

To do that, shouldn’t we assure that the educational experience of the lawyers we are now educating is as seamlessly global as that Armachand conference room? Our classrooms, and our thinking, need to be informed by that room, and by the globalization that is an inevitable part of our students’ futures.•

__________

Lauren K. Robel
is Dean and Val Nolan Professor of Law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Opinions expressed are the author’s.

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  1. IF the Right to Vote is indeed a Right, then it is a RIGHT. That is the same for ALL eligible and properly registered voters. And this is, being able to cast one's vote - until the minute before the polls close in one's assigned precinct. NOT days before by absentee ballot, and NOT 9 miles from one's house (where it might be a burden to get to in time). I personally wait until the last minute to get in line. Because you never know what happens. THAT is my right, and that is Mr. Valenti's. If it is truly so horrible to let him on school grounds (exactly how many children are harmed by those required to register, on school grounds, on election day - seriously!), then move the polling place to a different location. For ALL voters in that precinct. Problem solved.

  2. "associates are becoming more mercenary. The path to partnership has become longer and more difficult so they are chasing short-term gains like high compensation." GOOD FOR THEM! HELL THERE OUGHT TO BE A UNION!

  3. Let's be honest. A glut of lawyers out there, because law schools have overproduced them. Law schools dont care, and big law loves it. So the firms can afford to underpay them. Typical capitalist situation. Wages have grown slowly for entry level lawyers the past 25 years it seems. Just like the rest of our economy. Might as well become a welder. Oh and the big money is mostly reserved for those who can log huge hours and will cut corners to get things handled. More capitalist joy. So the answer coming from the experts is to "capitalize" more competition from nonlawyers, and robots. ie "expert systems." One even hears talk of "offshoring" some legal work. thus undercutting the workers even more. And they wonder why people have been pulling for Bernie and Trump. Hello fools, it's not just the "working class" it's the overly educated suffering too.

  4. And with a whimpering hissy fit the charade came to an end ... http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2016/07/27/all-charges-dropped-against-all-remaining-officers-in-freddie-gray-case/ WHISTLEBLOWERS are needed more than ever in a time such as this ... when politics trump justice and emotions trump reason. Blue Lives Matter.

  5. "pedigree"? I never knew that in order to become a successful or, for that matter, a talented attorney, one needs to have come from good stock. What should raise eyebrows even more than the starting associates' pay at this firm (and ones like it) is the belief systems they subscribe to re who is and isn't "fit" to practice law with them. Incredible the arrogance that exists throughout the practice of law in this country, especially at firms like this one.

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