Moorhead and Hinchly, ‘Professional Minimalism? The Ethical Consciousness of Commercial Lawyers’

Abstract:
This article investigates empirically, through semi-structured interviews, what shapes the professional ethical consciousness of commercial lawyers. It considers in-house and private practice lawyers side by side, interrogating the view that in-house ethics are different and inferior to private practice to suggest as much similarity as difference. In both constituencies, and in very similar ways, professional ethical concepts are challenged by the pragmatic logics of business. We examine how their ethical logics are shaped by these pragmatic logics, suggesting how both groups of practitioners could sometimes be vulnerable to breaching the boundary between tenable zeal for the client and unethical or unlawful conduct. Although they conceive of themselves as ethical, the extent to which practitioners are well equipped, inclined and positively encouraged to work ethically within their own rules is open to question. As a result, we argue professional ethics exert minimal, superficial influence over a more self-interested, commercially-driven pragmatism.

Richard Moorhead and Victoria Hinchly, Professional Minimalism? The Ethical Consciousness of Commercial Lawyers. Journal of Law and Society, volume 42, issue 3, pages 387–412, September 2015.

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