1.0 ETHICS IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION
1.11 What is Ethics?
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.
1.11 Why is Ethics important?
Ethics is a requirement for human life. It is our means of deciding a course of action. Without it, our actions would be random and aimless. There would be no way to work towards a goal because there would be no way to pick between a limitless numbers of goals. Even with an ethical standard, we may be unable to pursue our goals with the possibility of success. To the degree which a rational ethical standard is taken, we are able to correctly organize our goals and actions to accomplish our most important values. Any flaw in our ethics will reduce our ability to be successful in our endeavors.
1.12 What are the key elements of a proper Ethics?
A proper foundation of ethics requires a standard of value to which all goals and actions can be compared to. This standard is our own lives, and the happiness which makes them livable. This is our ultimate standard of value, the goal in which an ethical man must always aim. It is arrived at by an examination of man's nature, and recognizing his peculiar needs. A system of ethics must further consist of not only emergency situations, but the day to day choices we make constantly. It must include our relations to others, and recognize their importance not only to our physical survival, but to our well-being and happiness. It must recognize that our lives are an end in themselves, and that sacrifice is not only not necessary, but destructive.
1.2 Morality and Ethics
Morals have a greater social element to values and tend to have a very broad acceptance. Morals are far more about good and bad than other values. We thus judge others more strongly on morals than values. A person can be described as immoral, yet there is no word for them not following values.
We can picture morality versus value in Hindu lifestyle. Wearing belly-revealing clothes in Hindu culture is normal as it is one their values but in Islam, not covering up is considered as immoral as the act of not covering up could arouse the men’s desire which could promote sexual activities such as harassment or rape.
You can have professional ethics, but you seldom hear about professional morals. Ethics tend to be codified into a formal system or set of rules which are explicitly adopted by a group of people. Thus you have medical ethics. Ethics are thus internally defined and adopted, whilst morals tend to be externally imposed on other people. Thus, we have legal ethics. The rules of conduct in legal ethics only govern the law practitioners, such as the lawyers and judges.
If you accuse someone of being unethical such as delegating a lawyer’s job to his clerk, it is equivalent of calling them unprofessional and may well be taken as a significant insult and perceived more personally than if you called them immoral (which of course they may also not like). Understand the differences between the morals and ethics of the other person. If there is conflict between these, then they probably have it hidden from themselves and you may carefully use these as a lever.
Beware of transgressing the other person's morals, as this is particularly how they will judge you. Talking about professional ethics puts you on a high moral platform and encourages the other person to either join you or look up to you.
1.3 What amounts to being unethical in the legal profession?
Willful blindness is something that good lawyers know is unethical and bad lawyering.
Normally, after graduating, law students would pursue chambering. After chambering, they would be called to the bar. Assuming you have all passed your tests, you would probably say, “Ahhh..at last, no more tests”. But let me...
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