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Mapping the moral compass : the relationships between in-house lawyers' role, professional orientations, team cultures, organisational pressures, ethical infrastructure and ethical inclination

Moorhead, R; Vaughan, S; Mayson, S; Godinho, C; Gilbert, P; (2016) Mapping the moral compass : the relationships between in-house lawyers' role, professional orientations, team cultures, organisational pressures, ethical infrastructure and ethical inclination. (Ethical Leadership for In-house Lawyers Initiative Part 1 ). UCL Centre for Ethics and Law: London. Green open access

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Abstract

This is a survey of 400 in-house lawyers working in public, third and commercial sectors. We set out here the findings at the highest level. A number of organisations assisted with the distribution of the survey. This 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. We relate these to externally validated indicators of ethical inclination: (i) moral attentiveness (the extent to which people deal with problems as moral problems and the extent to which people identify moral problems); and (ii) moral disengagement (the extent to which people are inclined to morally disengage to behave unethically without feeling distress). It is as rich a picture of what it means to be an ethical inhouse lawyer as has ever been attempted. A more detailed summary and discussion of our findings is found in the final chapter of the main report for those who would like to know more but do not have the appetite or time to read the whole report. Through this research we profile the characteristics of individuals, teams and environments most associated with a stronger or weaker inclination 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. We think 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. As we show here, 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.

Type: Report
Title: Mapping the moral compass : the relationships between in-house lawyers' role, professional orientations, team cultures, organisational pressures, ethical infrastructure and ethical inclination
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.laws.ucl.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016...
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences
UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Laws
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1497048
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