NYC Event: Understanding the Moral Compass of In-House Lawyers

Very kindly organised by Ethical Systems we are discussing our research in New York City, July 14th as, “An opportunity to debate the role of the GC, its ethical framework and to highlight guiding principles.” We are especially delighted to be doing so with Azish Filabi and John Sherman.

If you are interested please RSVP by Email to willinger@ethicalsystems.org to attend.

The event is free.

Speakers

Richard Moorhead, Centre for Ethics and Law, UCL Laws Speakers
Steven Vaughan, CEPLER, Birmingham Law School
John F. Sherman III, SHIFT, General Counsel & Senior Advisor
Azish Filabi, CEO, Ethical Systems (moderator)
Thursday, July 14, 5:00 – 6:30pm, NYU Stern School of Business, Kaufman Management Center, 11th Floor

Summary

The past 20 years have resulted in a shifting landscape of the practice of law, as corporate in-house departments have greatly expanded, while competition and consolidation has altered private practice at law firms. You are invited to join us in a discussion of the ethical implications of this shifting landscape, as highlighted by the evidence shown in a pioneering UK based survey of 400 in-house lawyers working in commercial, government and third sectors conducted by Professor Richard Moorhead, Director of the Centre for Ethics and Law, University College London.

The survey provides a unique profile of individual in-house lawyers and their teams’ orientations, the invocation of professional principles, ethical infrastructure, ethical pressure and relationships with the employer. The survey also goes a step further and relates these issues to externally validated indicators of ethical inclination (moral attentiveness and moral disengagement). Professors Moorhead and Vaughan will discuss the survey results, and its implications for the practice of law, alongside a panel of experienced practitioners moderated by Azish Filabi, CEO of Ethical Systems, who will discuss the principles and survey takeaways that could guide the role of in-house lawyers for the next 20 years.

The research is authored by Richard Moorhead, Centre for Ethics and Law,
UCL Laws, Steven Vaughan, CEPLER, Birmingham Law School, Cristina
Godinho, Centre for Behaviour Change, UCL, Paul Gilbert, LBC Wise Counsel
and Stephen Mayson, Centre for Ethics and Law, UCL Laws.

Hosted by Ethical Systems
Co-sponsored by The NY State Bar Association Int’l and Corporate Counsel Sections

Part I Report now available: Mapping the Moral Compass of In-House Lawyers

Your can now download our report entitled “Mapping the Moral Compass” (or a shorter prettier Executive Summary).

The report looks at the relationships between in-house lawyers’ role, professional orientations, team cultures, organisational pressures, ethical infrastructure and ethical inclination.  It is based on a survey of 400 in-house lawyers working in public, third and commercial sectors.

We think that the report provides a unique profile of real differences within the in-house community. We examine individual and team orientations to the in-house role; the invocation of professional principles; and ethical infrastructure, ethical pressure and relationships with the employer. It is as rich a picture of what it means to be an ethical in-house lawyer as has ever been attempted.

Through this research the report profiles the characteristics of individuals, teams and environments most associated with a stronger or weaker propensity to behave ethically. It is important to emphasise that this mapping of the ‘moral compass’ of in-house lawyers shows that ethicality is associated with individual and professional notions of the in-house role but also with team orientations and the broader organisational environment. Ethicality is both a systemic and individual phenomenon.

The report notes that the systemic lesson is important: there is too much emphasis in legal circles on thinking that ethics is about being the right sort of individual. That kind of thinking is complacent and dangerous.

The report shows that individuals, systems and cultures mesh together in meaningful and measurable ways to increase or reduce ethical risk. As numerous corporate scandals have shown, such ethical risk puts individual lawyers at risk of professional misconduct but it also encourages poor quality decision-making for the organisations that employ in-house lawyers: short-termism and sharp practice can lead to catastrophic error.

Some initial findings at a glance:

  • 400 respondents
  • 10-15% experienced elevated ethical pressure. 30-40% sometimes experienced ethical pressure
  • Ethical pressure was highest in public sector organisations
  • 36% agreed that loopholes in the law should be identified that benefit the business
  • 9% indicated saying “no” to the organisation was to be avoided, even when there is no legally acceptable alternative to suggest
  • 65% achieving what their organisation wants has to be their main priority
  • 7% never discussed professional ethics issues with colleagues internally or externally, formally or informally.

Paul Gilbert, CEO of LBC Wise Counsel, who with Steven Vaughan of Birmingham Law School and Stephen Mayson, an honorary prof at UCL, is working with me on the Ethical Leadership for In House Lawyers project (you can keep up to date with that project here)

Whilst some findings give us concern, it is important to emphasise the good practice we found.  Our research suggests that ethical in-house practice is about rounded individual understandings of the role; it is about the approach of teams and the organisations those teams work in; it is about understanding and drawing on all the obligations of professionalism; and, it is about building a better infrastructure to manage the tensions within the role.

This research is part of a broader process of engagement and evolution of best practice with the practitioner community about ethical practice for in-house lawyers. Parts 2 of the process will discuss the findings emerging from townhall meetings and interviews with in-house lawyers.

Mapping the Moral Compass of In-House Lawyers

A discussion with in-house lawyers

2nd June 2016, Norton Rose Fulbright, 6pm-8pm including a reception

This event will launch the results of a major survey from the Centre for Ethics and Law mapping in-house lawyers role, professional orientations, team cultures, organisational pressures, ethical infrastructure and ethical inclination.

This report provides a unique profile of differences within the in-house community: in business, in government and in the third sector. We examine individual and team orientations to the in-house role; the invocation of professional principles; ethical infrastructure, ethical pressure and relationships with the employer; and, we relate these to externally validated indicators of ethical inclination. It is as close to a comprehensive picture of what it means to be an ethical in-house lawyer as has ever been attempted.

Through this research we profile the characteristics of individuals, teams and environments most associated with a stronger or weaker propensity to behave ethically. Come and hear how this mapping of the ‘moral compass’ suggests that ethical in-house practice is about individual understandings of the role; it is about the approach of teams and the organisations those teams work in; it is about understanding and drawing on professionalism; and, it is about building an infrastructure to manage the tensions within the role.

This event is aimed at in-house lawyers, executive and non-executive directors and others interested in the in-house role.  We want to encourage a constructive conversation about evolving ethical leadership in-house.

Speakers:

Richard Moorhead will outline the research findings.

Paul Gilbert, LBC Wise Counsel will introduce the Ethical Leadership Initiative and a practice focused discussion of the research findings.

Stephen Mayson will Chair a discussion with participants from the floor.

…..

The event is kindly hosted by Norton Rose Fulbright.

The research is authored by Richard Moorhead, Centre for Ethics and Law, UCL Laws, Steven Vaughan, CEPLER, Birmingham Law School , Cristina Godinho, Centre for Behaviour Change, UCL, Paul Gilbert, LBC Wise Counsel and Stephen Mayson, Centre for Ethics and Law, UCL Laws.

Booking information will be available shortly. Please make room in your diary if this is of interest.

Calling all in-house lawyers to a nationwide debate on ethical leadership

Be part of the conversation – A roundtable discussion with Paul Gilbert of LBC Wise Counsel facilitating

In 2015 a major new project was launched to research and engage in-house lawyers on the role of the General Counsel in the context of Ethical Leadership.

The project is led by Professor Richard Moorhead, Professor Stephen Mayson both of UCL Centre for Ethics and Law (CELs), Paul Gilbert of LBC Wise Counsel and Steven Vaughan of the Centre for Professional Legal Education and Research (CEPLER).

The project has attracted the interest of the SRA and we believe it is the first time this important subject has been systematically researched with in-house lawyers at the heart of the conversation.

In 2015 the first phase of the project was to undertake an online survey of in-house counsel. The full results of the survey will be published this year along with the commentary of in-house lawyers in conversation with the project team.

This therefore is your invitation to attend a roundtable “town hall” conversation and to be part of the debate. The meetings will be held in March, April, May and June. Emerging themes from the survey will be shared, but crucially we want your views to be heard. Each conversation will be under the Chatham House rule so we can all speak freely without attribution. It is a unique study and your insights are vital for the research.

There is no fee to attend any roundtable meeting, we simply want you to come. It does not matter your sector, the size of your team or your seniority. Your views matter as an in-house lawyer today, so please be heard. Meetings are schedule for just two hours and hopefully at times that are not disruptive for the working day.

Dates and venues:

  1. 7 March 8am to 10am Sheffield at the offices of Irwin Mitchell
  2. 7 March 5pm to 7pm Birmingham at the offices of Irwin Mitchell
  3. 9 March 5pm to 7pm Manchester at the offices of Irwin Mitchell
  4. 10 March 8am to 10am London at the offices of Irwin Mitchell
  5. 10 March 5pm to 7pm London at the offices of Irwin Mitchell
  6. 20 April 5pm to 7pm London at the offices of Bevan Brittan
  7. 21 April 12.30 – 2.30 Leeds at the offices of Bevan Brittan
  8. 26 April 8am to 10am Bristol at the offices of Bevan Brittan
  9. 26 April 5pm to 7pm Bristol at the offices of Bevan Brittan
  10. 11 May 430pm to 630pm Birmingham at the offices of Bevan Brittan
  11. 2 June 6pm to 8pm London at the offices of Norton Rose Fulbright

In order to secure your place at the table, please reply to Tina Harris th@lbcwisecounsel.com or Paul Gilbert pg@lbcwisecounsel.com indicating which meeting you wish to attend. They will then write to confirm your place and full venue details.

You will not be added to a mailing list by registering your interest.

More on the project:

There is growing evidence, research and some anecdotal commentary to suggest that the role of GC is under increasing pressure and that the professional ethical boundaries are not as elegantly drawn as may be helpful for our increasingly sophisticated world of work. While it seems fair to assume that no one relishes more regulation, and more regulation of in-house lawyers/lawyers may be inappropriate anyway, it is interesting to note that there are no qualifications needed to be a General Counsel, no commonly accepted guiding principles for the role and no requirements on business to create an environment in which it is appropriate to employ in-house lawyers. In addition the types of GC role vary dramatically from strategic executive consigliere to transactional specialist. As a result the expectations of business of the GC role vary widely as well.

This initiative therefore is not a call for new or more regulation. It is however a call for in-house lawyers to come together (sometimes with other stakeholders) to debate the role of the General Counsel, its ethical framework and then to suggest the principles that could guide the role. We are certain that in-house lawyers know best what the tough issues are and how they manage them. This is therefore a facilitated forum for debate, a place to offer and share insight, to share resources and help shape the needs of the General Counsel as well as serving the interests of the profession and of business.

Please be involved. Please pass the invitation on to colleagues, friends and contacts who are in-house lawyers as well. Please be part of the debate.

Do institutional clients threaten lawyer independence? UCL Event

An event of interest to in-house lawyers and private practitioners which is of relevance to our ongoing project on ethical leadership and in-house lawyers is taking place early in the New Year.

Do Institutional Clients Threaten Lawyer Independence? Location: UCL Marquee (Main Quad), Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 6pm. Seminar format discussion aimed at regulators, academics and practitioners. Book here

Dr Steven Vaughan will draw on research he has conducted over the last year to ask whether institutional clients threaten lawyers’ independence.

The relationship between large commercial law firms and their clients and the impact of these relationships on professional independence, ethics, standards and risk is of central importance to the effective regulation of the solicitors’ profession.

There has been a shift in the standard dynamic of lawyer-client relationships in large firms. Clients now hold significant power over their firms.

This is due to a  complex of factors: increasing competition for legal services; the growth of General Counsel; the relative size of clients to their firms; and the ongoing impacts of the financial crisis.

From over 100 interviews with corporate finance lawyers and COLPS in 30 top 100 law firms, Steven will set out his concerns as to the potential for institutional clients to threaten lawyers’ independence.

In particular, his talk will focus on the private regulation of professional lawyers via contract (i.e. the use of law firm panels and outside counsel guidelines), and the practice of what he terms ‘shadow clients’ (whereby third parties – e.g. borrowers – pay the fees of, and have a powerful voice in the appointment of, their lender’s lawyers).

Download report prepared by Steven, with Claire Coe, for the SRA on ‘Independence, Representation and Risk’

Our In-House Lawyer Survey is about to close…

Our survey of in-house lawyers will be closing by the end of the month.  If you are an in-house lawyer and would like to participate in the survey but have not yet done so, please click on this link, leave your email and we will email you a link.

We will soon be arranging small ‘town-hall’ meeting with in-house lawyers to discuss the issues facing the in-house community shortly.  These meetings will debate the role of the General Counsel, its ethical framework and then to suggest the principles that could guide the role. We are certain that in-house lawyers know best what the tough issues are and how they manage them.  If you would like to know more about this please email r.moorhead [at] ucl [dot] ac [dot] uk.

This will be a facilitated forum for debate, a place to offer and share insight, to share resources and help shape the needs of the General Counsel as well as serving the interests of the profession and of business.