Mapping the Moral Compass: Exploring the Ethics of In-House Lawyers
185 Pelham Street
Part of a project Dr Steven Vaughan is working on with Professor Richard Moorhead (University College London), Legal Risk in the Corporate World: The Changing Role of In-House Lawyers, this paper will look at the relationships between in-house lawyers’ roles, professional orientations, team cultures, organisational pressures, ethical infrastructure and ethical inclination.
Based on a survey of 400 in-house lawyers working in public, third and commercial sectors in the UK, together with 33 follow-on interviews, the research provides a unique profile of real differences within the in-house community. Individual and team orientations to the in-house role; the invocation of professional principles; and ethical infrastructure, ethical pressure and relationships with the employer are all examined. It is as rich a picture of what it means to be an ethical in-house lawyer as has ever been attempted. The project 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.
Dr Steven Vaughan is a Senior Lecturer at the Law School, University of Birmingham and Director of Research in CEPLER, the Law School’s Centre on Professional Legal Education and Research.
Dr Steven Vaughan, Senior Lecturer
Dr Steven Vaughan
University of Birmingham
Dr Steven Vaughan is a Senior Lecturer at the Law School, University of Birmingham and Director of Research in CEPLER, the Law School’s Centre on Professional Legal Education and Research. He spent almost a decade in practice in the City of London, first with Freshfields and then with Latham & Watkins, before making the move into academia. His work focuses on lawyers' practices, ethics and regulation. Steven has published, with Hart, a popular book on the future of legal education and the legal profession, conducted research for the Solicitors Regulation Authority on the concept of lawyer independence in large law firms, and is currently writing a book on inhouse lawyers with Professor Richard Moorhead (UCL). Away from the university, he sits on the Policy Committee of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Research Strategy Group of the Legal Services Board and the LGBT Lawyers Committee of The Law Society of England and Wales.