How can we maintain an ethical stance in the next generation? The role of the mentor and of legal education
For the in-house legal profession to thrive, we need to ensure that the next generation of lawyers are inspired by the prospect of an exciting and fulfilling career in the legal profession. The desire to buy, eat and live ethically and sustainably is growing, and that ethos can naturally be extended to professional life as well.
How can we ensure that next generation in-house lawyers understand the challenges that an in-house career can bring and how can we arm them with the knowledge to be able to face those challenges in a socially responsible and ethical manner?
One great way is to encourage mentoring. The dictionary says that to mentor is “to advise or train (someone, especially a younger colleague)”. The original Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who advised Odysseus’ son Telemachus while Odysseus was away at the Trojan war.
Mentoring programmes focused on ethics and responsibility for aspiring lawyers would support an early understanding of these challenges. For a legal example, see the Financial Times piece “Six rules for harnessing the power of a mentor”, published on 5 March 2018.
Legal education: a thirst for justice?
Legal education is set for a revolution in UK. But for a sustained debate on whether legal education has got right the balance between technical skills and a professional ethic, the USA provides a fertile debating ground.
The Carnegie Foundation Report “Educating Lawyers, Preparation for the Profession of Law” (pdf) of 2007 provides an inspirational report on the purpose of legal education.
For a recent discussion, see the American Bar Association debate of February 2018, where one of the Carnegie authors, Judith Wegner, lambasts both the cost and the balance of legal education in the States.
Equally, for lawyers in Europe, legal education needs to balance the necessary focus on developing the technical skills required to enter legal practice with an increased focus on ethics, integrity and social responsibility, which would support a holistic education that develops a generation of lawyers with ethics, justice and integrity as core values to their practice.