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24 Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics 1 (2011)


Many U.S. law firms now claim to be global organizations, and they seek to occupy the same high status everywhere they work. In part, simply supporting overseas offices is an indication of status for U.S.-based firms. But firms want more than this and they strive for recognition as elite advisors around the world. In this pursuit, have firms identified a set of common characteristics and credentials that define a "global lawyer?" That is, is there a uniform and universal profile, or perhaps a set of assets that comprise global professional capital, which are emerging as the indicia of credibility and legitimacy apart from location? Given the U.S. identity of the firms, perhaps U.S. legal education is an element of the professional capital necessary to succeed on a global level.

In this Article, U.S. legal education, specifically the U.S. LL.M. degree - a one-year post-graduate degree aimed at foreign law graduates - serves as an entry-point for unpacking the meaning of professional capital in the market for global legal services. This paper uses original data to develop a framework for analyzing the currency of U.S. legal education by focusing on two case studies, Germany and China. While the U.S. LL.M. signals value in each jurisdiction, the strength and shape of the signal is determined by host country context. "Global lawyers" become global only in context.