Lawyers Are Not Algorithms: Sustainability, Corruption, and the Role of the Lawyer in Institutional Frameworks and Corporate Transactions

Legal Ethics 23:-- (2020)

24 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2020

See all articles by Larry Catá Backer

Larry Catá Backer

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law

Date Written: June 14, 2020

Abstract

Lawyers are moral actors deeply embedded in the social and political orders to the principles of which they owe a high degree of fidelity. A lawyer’s ethical obligations are grounded in that basic fidelity and they may advance their client’s interests only consistent with this higher duty. Thus, the ethical duties of lawyers flow to clients but from the principles on which the social order is founded. It is in that context that one may speak to the ethical obligations of lawyers in their institutional roles and as advocates in corporate transactions. institutional role of lawyers. Among key emerging societal principles to which a lawyer owes a high degree of fidelity are those that advance sustainability and that combat corruption. This essay considers the character of those ethical obligations when sustainability and corruption meet the needs of institutions and the objectives of “deals.” Part 1 introduces the self-reflexive challenge of lawyer ethics. Part 2 then maps the lawyer’s ethics universe as —conduct, compliance, responsibility, and duty. Part 3 then turns to the framework and challenges of the ethical lawyer. It situates the role of lawyers as gatekeepers and in that context considers the ethical challenges of lawyers generally, distinguishing between ethics as right conduct, as norms, as compliance, as responsibility, and as duty. Part 4, then applies the insights developed to examine the lawyer’s ethical dilemmas as they may manifest themselves within the specific context of sustainability and corruption, and within institutional frameworks and client transactions. The essay concludes with a central insight to be drawn from that examination—that beyond context, ethics is a deeply moral project that ought to drive ethical decision making.

Keywords: legal ethics; sustainability; corruption; compliance; lawyer agency; moral agency; reporting; due diligence word

JEL Classification: M14, K22, K33, K42, M19

Suggested Citation

Backer, Larry Catá, Lawyers Are Not Algorithms: Sustainability, Corruption, and the Role of the Lawyer in Institutional Frameworks and Corporate Transactions (June 14, 2020). Legal Ethics 23:-- (2020), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3626717

Larry Catá Backer (Contact Author)

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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