St. Mary's Law Journal


Rona R. Mears


The focus of this study is to survey ethical issues faced by legal practitioners in providing legal counsel for international business transactions, with special attention to lawyers counseling clients who are doing business with Mexico. This paper is intended for lawyers who practice in the United States (U.S.), involved in counseling clients outside the U.S. The purpose of this study is to highlight only those issues that raise special difficulties for such a practitioner, and then to provide practical advice on how to avoid ethical problems in U.S.-Mexico transactions. The Model Rules of Professional Conduct (MPRC), the International Code of Ethics, and case law provide a framework for the types of ethical dilemmas lawyers can face in international business transactions. The American Bar Association (ABA), the European Community (EC) and the International Bar Association (IBA) have guidelines for lawyers on how to avoid and navigate through ethical dilemmas. Although the EC code is not widely recognized and holds no real enforcement power outside its region it is an effective model for future cross-border professional codes. The International Code is not widely supported and has no real regulatory enforcement for international practitioners. The MPRC drafted by the ABA has a regulatory enforcement for U.S. attorneys practicing international law because any violations of the code are subject to discipline by their jurisdictions. The lawyer should also be sensitive to the ethical standards of the foreign jurisdictions, and the laws of both countries that may directly impact business activity and standards of professional conduct. Most importantly, a fundamental dilemma must be resolved, how to provide zealous advocacy of the client's interests and yet ensure diligent and competent representation in the foreign country.


St. Mary's University School of Law