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Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies (GLEE)

In an age of rapid globalization, few lines of inquiry in social and legal studies seem more pressing than the development of the legal profession in emerging economies. The legal profession has traditionally operated primarily within national borders. As globalization intensifies economic, political, social and cultural relations across borders, an increasing number of transactions are affected by multiple legal orders. At the same time, as economic power shifts, emerging economies are becoming central players in the global legal industry, creating new economic relationships and bringing new perspectives to law and global governance. As a result of these developments, the legal profession stands on the brink of a fundamental transformation.

Emerging economies like India, China and Brazil are at the frontiers of these changes. Their impressive growth creates new demands for legal services. Both indigenous and foreign law firms are trying to seize these market opportunities. Governments strive to harness globalization to promote national development by engaging in legal reforms. A new generation of lawyers challenges traditional notions of legal practice and legal expertise. Legal education is modernizing. These efforts occur within a matrix of international and regional norms which help shape the contours of national law. Since globalization may produce vast inequalities, it also raises questions of corporate lawyers’ social responsibility.  

The GLEE initiative investigates the impact of globalization on the corporate legal sector in major emerging economies and the effect of changes in this sector on other parts of the legal order, including legal education and the provision of legal services to underrepresented populations. It is the first comprehensive attempt to analyze the transformation of corporate legal sectors in major emerging economies and how these developments may in turn reshape legal practice in established markets such as North America and Europe.

The project focuses on developments in India, China and Brazil but may expand to other jurisdictions in the future. GLEE researchers collaborate on the design and implementation of empirical scholarship to assess the significance of the changing nature of the corporate sector for domestic legal orders, economic, social and political development, and global governance. The project is contributing to theoretical debates in globalization, sociology of the legal profession and law and development literatures, and producing knowledge that helps legal practitioners address globalization challenges they face in their day-to-day work.

Areas of Study

Four primary areas of study fall under the umbrella of the GLEE initiative:

  1. Investigating the impact of globalization on the major corporate legal service providers like elite law firms, in-house counsel, and legal process outsourcing companies;
  2. Analyzing the effect of globalization on the regulation of law practice, cross-border transactional lawyering and legal capacity building in international dispute settlement;
  3. Examining the interplay between the corporate legal sector and traditional sectors of the legal profession including the courts, legal education, and public interest; and
  4. Exploring how the transformation of the corporate legal sector affects national development goals and trajectories and global governance.

Learn More

GLEE has recently launched a major survey aimed at understanding the changing nature of in-house legal departments in emerging economy companies. If you have recieved a link to participate in this survey and have any questions about it, please email Bryon Fong at bfong@law.harvard.edu.

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