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Ethics in Law

Ethics in Law

Ethics in Law

Ethics in Law versus in Other Fields

The definition of ethics is not different across all fields in which humans operate. In any case, ethics present the minimum standards for the appropriate conduct in any setting in which people coexist. Besides, ethics give an outline of the norms and morals that govern the interactions between people (US Legal, Inc., 2016). It also outlines the duties and responsibilities owed by people to others. For instance, legal ethics stipulate the mandate of judges and attorneys to their clients and the courts. In business, ethics maintain the cordial relationships between the entities and their clients by specifying the lines along which each party should operate. Medical ethics also dictate how medical practitioners and health service providers relate to or handle their clients (US Legal, Inc., 2016). In this regards, legal and medical ethics require professionals to handle client information with substantial confidentiality. Moreover, in all professions, ethics outlines the professional responsibility for all practitioners; and the specific ethical guidelines they are expected to observe in the daily discharge of their obligations. Therefore, ethics in law is not different from ethics in other fields.

There also lacks difference between ethics in law and other fields because philosophical understanding does not necessitate the existence of ethics in any area, but the need for the improvement of how people live in different fields (McCartney & Parent, 2004). Existence of ethics in legal practice and other areas serves as a source of enrichment to our lives and those of other people in the society. Also, similarity in ethics across all spheres enables people to understand and foster their virtues by maintaining knowledge on the need to behave or act in specific ways (McCartney & Parent, 2004). Therefore, although law supersedes all other professions, ethics does not change in subject but content. The underlying subject of ethics is how people should conduct themselves in different fields towards each other; therefore, it is united by its theme across all areas.

Potential Ethical Tools and Models for Decision-Making

Law practitioners can rely on various ethical tools and models to make the right choices in their practice, including the PLUS (Policies and procedures, legal, universal, and self) model. Essentially, ethical decisions should comply with the professional guidelines for the field. The model advocates for the ethical decision made to abide by the field’s policies and procedures. Legal practitioners are guided by specific policies and procedures in all their professional endeavors. As such, all ethical decisions they form in line of their duty should abide by the policy and procedural guidelines of the field. The model also enables the decision-makers to formulate ethical decisions that do not breach any legal provision (ECI, 2019). In any case, all ethical dilemmas are often solved by reference to the existing legal frameworks. Therefore, when formulating ethical decisions, legal practitioners should ensure that their formulations do not breach any law. The ethical decision formulated should also be universally acceptable in the entire legal profession. As such, it should be possible for other legal practitioners to apply or follow the ethical decision without difficulty. The decision-maker should also meet the standards of fairness and justice.

            The decision-maker may also apply the character-based decision-making model to reinforce the PLUS model in the formulation of ethical decisions. According to the model, the decision-maker should consider the potential impact of the decision on all stakeholders. The step aims at maintaining fairness for all practitioners and avoids harming others. The decision-maker should also prioritize ethics over non-ethical values. Therefore, the rationalization of any decision should not violate any ethical principles of the profession. Finally, the decision-maker can opt to violate another ethical policy if the underlying decision will advance an improved ethical environment for other practitioners.

Circumstances in Which an Ethical Decision Would be required in a Legal Context

An ethical decision-making would be required when the court or police request a social worker for confidential information about their client (Reamer, 2008). In such a case, despite the request by the court or police for the confidential information, the social worker should take into consideration all current legal guidelines for the disclosure of such confidential information without the consent of the client. However, such a situation would be treated differently in various jurisdictions due to the typical variations in legal and ethical provisions. Therefore, if the social worker is confronted with such a dilemma, there will be a need to formulate an ethical decision that would serve the interests of all affected parties without hurting them (Reamer, 2008). There would be a need for a moral decision in such a case because such disclosure could breach the rights of the client and professional obligation of the social worker to maintain the highest levels of confidentiality. Also, the court or police may primarily need such information to determine a case at hand or make informed legal decisions. Therefore, cases involving social workers and their clients may pose severe challenges in the administration of justice; therefore, calling for the formulation of ethical decisions in a bid to cater for all interests of the parties involved.

Potential Consequences for Failing to Meet Ethical Obligations

Legal practitioners are professionals whose operations are accompanied by substantial ethical responsibility and duty (MacFarlane, 2002). Their commitment to the profession implies a commitment to the prevailing code of ethics in order to maintain professionalism and high quality of the services they offer. Upholding the ethical principles of the profession ensures that all individuals are respected and protected against unfair practices (LII, 2007). As such, failure to observe the universal ethical principles could result in destructive consequences to the individual. The damage may be experienced in their well-being, efficiency, and reputation (James, 2017). Imperatively, breach of professional legal ethics may attract legal consequences for the lawyer; especially if the offense is confirmed later by a court of law. For instance, a lawyer operates under a fiduciary duty to their clients at all times. In case it is established that the attorney acted in the disinterest of the client, they may face legal suits and subsequent legal implications such as fines and loss of their jobs. The professional bodies governing the operations of the legal profession may impose severe injunctions for any member found to have breached ethics to protect the reputation of their profession. Also, breach of such ethical principles may adversely affect the image of the job and the individual; thus causing loss of trust and clients. Therefore, it is critical for all legal practitioners to uphold the highest ethical standards in their practice to avert harsh consequences.

References

ECI. (2019). The PLUS Ethical Decision Making Model – Ethics & Compliance Toolkit. Retrieved from https://www.ethics.org/resources/free-toolkit/decision-making-model/

James, C. (2017). Legal practice on time: The ethical risk and inefficiency of the six-minute unit. Alternative Law Journal42(1), 61-66. doi: 10.1177/1037969×17694786

LII. (2007). The Lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/ethics/ny/code/NY_CODE.HTM

MacFarlane, P. (2002). The Importance of Ethics and the Application of Ethical Principles to the Legal Profession. Journal of South Pacific Law13(1), 25-26. Retrieved from http://www.paclii.org/journals/fJSPL/vol06/8.shtml

Reamer, F. (2008). When Law and Ethics Collide. Social Work Today8(5), 264-283. Retrieved from https://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/EoESepOct08.shtml

McCartney, S., & Parent, R. (2004). The Importance of Ethical Behaviour [Ebook]. London: Creative Commons Attribution. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/ethicsinlawenforcement/chapter/1-1-the-importance-of-ethical-behavior/

US Legal, Inc. (2016). Legal Ethics Law and Legal Definition. Retrieved from https://definitions.uslegal.com/l/legal-ethics/

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