In-House Lawyers’ Ethics Book

Our book In-house Lawyers Ethics: Institutional Logics, Legal Risk and the Tournament of Influence is available for purchase from today in hard and electronic versions. It explores data from over 60 interviews and UCL’s Mapping the Moral Compass survey. Paul Gilbert has very kindly reviewed the book here.

UCL’s Centre for Ethics and Law will be hosting a ‘first thoughts’ even on the 29th January to celebrate the book. Steven and Richard will be largely muzzled. Instead, we will hear from leading in-house and regulatory lawyers about what thoughts the book prompted for them. If that might be of interest, watch this space and keep the evening free!

We’ll also be posting more on some work we have been doing on best practice guidance in the not too distant future.

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Ethical Leadership Roundtable Reports

We are publishing here a report of the ethical leadership roundtables conducted as part of our ongoing work on this initiative. This report will be shared with all participants and published more widely as well.

It is intended to be read as an anecdotal review of conversations that took place. It is therefore a contribution to the debate, not a definitive explanation of need and solutions.

It should be read alongside the far more detailed report published in June 2016 accessible via this link: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/laws/law-ethics/cel-events/ELIHL-survey-report which it significantly validates and supports.

We hope this report of roundtable discussions will present an opportunity for all in-house lawyers to reflect on their roles as ethical leaders and to help them to better position their ethical role within their employer business/organisations.

In a third report, to be published in 2018, we will make our recommendations in respect of ethical leadership for in-house lawyers which we hope will support the ambition of in-house lawyers to be confident of their obligations and to have access to the proportionate resources and insights that will help them succeed.

Gilbert 2018 Ethical Leadership Roundtables, March and April 2016.pptx UCL slide template

What do we expect from General Counsel?

A new piece by Paul Gilbert in the In-House Lawyer magazine starts to open up a debate about the core competencies of the General Counsel role.

any short article that sets out to define the purpose and contribution of the role of GC will fail. However, I will share five reflections on the competency attributes for the role which I tried to live by when I held the position and which I now mentor GCs to reflect upon.

You can read it here.

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.