Tangled Loyalties recounts a 10,000 mile journey to learn systematically about the role of conflict of interest in the private practice of law. Weaving together the stories of a diverse collection of legal practitioners, Susan P. Shapiro takes readers where only the most mobile of lawyers have ever ventured—behind the closed doors of many law firms. She reports on the varied ways in which loyalties become tangled; how law firms seek to avoid conflicts of interest; how they identify, evaluate, and resolve them; how they interact with clients, adversaries, and colleagues over them; and how those experiences vary from LaSalle Street or Wall Street to Main Street and from mega-firms to solo practices. The book also analyzes the impact of conflicts of interest and the self-regulatory activities they inspire on the everyday practice of law.
Because conflicts of interest intersect with every aspect of legal practice, they provide a window on the legal profession. As lawyers describe how conflicts arise in their daily work, we learn about the nature of that work, about clients, colleagues, careers, law firm power and politics, economics, and ethics. We learn, in short, about what it means to be a lawyer in the United States today.
Tangled Loyalties also examines how other professions respond to the challenge of honoring the competing interests of those they serve. It turns out they don’t do so well. What may come as a surprise to some, the fiduciary world has much to learn from the legal profession about ethics. These lessons tell us not only about the practice of law, but about the difficulties of rendering trust in complex societies.