South Carolina Lawyer
SC Lawyer, September 2005, #5.
Ethics tips from business leaders
South Carolina LawyerSeptember 2005Ethics tips from business leadersBy John FreemanMost of what we learn in life is not imparted to us in a classroom. Most of the useful information we pick up comes from our interaction with others. Sometimes this useful data consists of ideas we can use to become more effective or avoid making errors.
The March 21, 2005, edition of Fortune featured tips from prominent and successful business leaders who were asked to relate "the best advice I ever got." Among the members of the all-star cast of advice receivers and repeaters were Jack Welch, formerly of GE; Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway; and Andy Grove, Intel's chairman. In many cases, the tips presented related to attitude and ways of interacting with others. Often, the advice carried a nugget of insight directly applicable to law practice or legal ethics.
For example, Jim Collins, author of the best-seller Good to Great, passed on this guidance given to him by business management legend Peter Drucker: "The real discipline comes in saying no to the wrong opportunities Saying no is hard." What a wonderful insight! You need to say no to "the wrong opportunities." So many lawyers end up with grievance or malpractice problems because they accepted a job, an "opportunity" that should have been turned down due to a conflict of interest or inability to do the job properly because of insufficient time or a lack of expertise. Collins and Drucker teach not to feel bad about saying "no" even though rejecting work cuts against the grain for lawyers who are trained to be problem-solvers.
Computer chip-maker AMD's CEO Hector Ruiz offered this insight: "Surround yourself with people of integrity." You do not have to live too many years to realize that some people who work in law offices are prone to cut corners, fib, pilfer and/or look for the easy way out of problems. These folks make up a low percentage of the professional population, but they are out there and they are a menace. People who cannot be honest about their professional dealings are toxic to a law practice. You cannot work around them and their problems; eventually their problems will become yours. The lawyer or staffer you catch lying or stealing needs to be fired. In the...