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Law in Context

Abstract from Volume 19 (2001) For the Public Good

Barriers to Pro Bono: Commercial Conflicts of Interest Reconsidered

Elisabeth Wentworth is legal counsel to the Australian Banking Industry Ombudsman and a part-time member of the Vicotrian Legal Profession Tribunal.

Commercial conflict, or 'indirect conflict', is an expression used to describe an unwillingness to act, usually in a pro bono matter, because of concerns that existing or potential clients will question a law firm's allegiances. The principal context in which commercial conflict concerns are raised is debate about mandatory pro bono regimes. A new context is indications by government that a demonstrated commitment to pro bono work may be taken into account in awarding tenders for legal services. Wentworth considers the issue in the Australian context with comparative examples and observations from the US; distinguishes it from conflict of interest in the legal and professional conduct sense and redefines it as commercial concern; examines the basis of the concern - why lawyers raise commercial conflict when declining pro bono work and whether that reflects a decline of the service ideal of the profession; and puts forward some strategies for minimising the impact of commercial concerns on pro bono service provision.

Comment: Governmental Responses to Commercial Conflicts of Interest
Paul Sofronoff
Comment: Commercial Firms and Commercial Conflicts of Interest
Bruce Moore

(2001) 19 Law in Context 166
Keywords: Lawyering

   
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