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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: June 2012

9 - Corporate Lawyers and Corporate Misconduct



In 2005, the large national Australian law firm, Allens Arthur Robinson (‘Allens’) won the Business Review Weekly – St George ‘Client Choice’ awards for being best large law firm, and also best large professional services firm of the year. The managing partner was quoted explaining how the firm had won these accolades:

We don't run this place as a holiday camp … We expect our people to treat the client as if they were God and to put themselves out for clients. You don't say ‘Sorry I can't do it, I'm playing cricket on the weekend’ … You don't have a right to any free time.

Lawyers employed in commercial law firms and those employed ‘inhouse’ in a company's legal department often also seem to talk and behave as if they have no right to a free conscience or independent moral judgement either. If you are a corporate lawyer, it is not seen as your job to have a moral opinion about your clients' (or employer's) activities. To express one may jeopardise your career.

Traditionally it was thought that the external lawyers for a company were automatically more independent and more capable of giving fearless, ethical advice to corporate clients if they thought their client was behaving wrongfully than were internal or inhouse lawyers employed inside the company whose whole job depended on the company.

Recommended Further Reading
Richard Beasley, , Hell Has Harbour Views (Macmillan, Sydney, 2001); and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation telemovie based on the novel (written and directed by Peter Duncan), Hell Has Harbour Views (2005).
Kenneth, E Goodpaster, ‘The Concept of Corporate Responsibility’ (1983) 2 Journal of Business Ethics1.
Robert Gordon, ‘A New Role for Lawyers? The Corporate Counselor After Enron’ (2003) 35 Connecticut Law Review 1185; also extracted in Milton, C Regan and Jeffrey, D Bauman (eds), Legal Ethics and Corporate Practice (see full reference below) 64.
Robert, A Kagan and Robert Eli Rosen, , ‘On the Social Significance of Large Law Firm Practice’ (1985) 37 Stanford Law Review399.
Donald, C Langevoort, ‘The Epistemology of Corporate-Securities Lawyering: Beliefs, Biases and Organizational Behaviour’ (1997) 63 Brooklyn Law Review629.
David Luban, , ‘Integrity: Its Causes and Cures’ (2003) 72 Fordham Law Review279.
Christine Parker, , The Open Corporation: Effective Self-Regulation and Democracy (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2002).
Christine Parker, , ‘Law Firms Incorporated: How Incorporation Could and Should Make Firms More Ethically Responsible’ (2004) 23 University of Queensland Law Journal347.
Milton, C Regan and Jeffrey, D Bauman, Legal Ethics and Corporate Practice (Thomson/West, St Paul, Minnesota, 2005).
Robert Eli Rosen, , ‘Problem-Setting and Serving the Organizational Client: Legal Diagnosis and Professional Independence’ (2001) 56 University of Miami Law Review179.
William, H Simon, ‘Wrongs of Ignorance and Ambiguity: Lawyer Responsibility for Collective Misconduct’ (2005) 22 Yale Journal on Regulation1.