Centre for Ethics and Law


UCL Inaugural Lecture: Precarious Professionalism - Some evidence on Market, State and Lawyer Utopia

06 March 2014, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

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Centre for Ethics & Law


Bentham House

Richard Moorhead

Since the era of Margaret Thatcher, and her much admired Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the legal profession has found itself under increasing scrutiny and pressure. Legal Aid and legal market reform began then but has been significantly accelerated by the creation of the Legal Services Board. Professional power has decreased and the influence of the market increased. State – or rather politician - hostility to lawyers and fiscal retrenchment has led to a reduction in legal aid and concerted attempts to weaken lawyer and court roles in the resolution of disputes. Globalisation and the growth of large law firms has increased the extent to which law is seen as a business rather than a profession. Market reform and the recession have shed a harsher light on the economics and ethics of large law firms.

For many, the market and the State are combining to squeeze out professionalism. The evidence, however, paints a much more complicated picture. This lecture will outline that evidence, including some new evidence on the ethical consciousness of commercial lawyers. It will argue that professionalism is precarious - demonstrably so - but also that the blame lies with markets, with the State, and with lawyers themselves.


  • Professor Richard Moorhead, Professor of Law and Professional Ethics and Director of the Centre for Ethics and Law, UCL


  • Mr Justice Blair

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