Degraded Times

Several conversations and commentaries put the phrase “degraded times” in my head. I by nature tend to hope for the best, think that people don’t put their feet on the floor in the morning to do harm or a bad job. I also tend to believe that 99% of all people know what is right and wrong. I qualify my statement of belief because I am not blind to actions and words that prove my tendency wrong.

A person I have worked with in my past, with whom I keep in touch, has an eye out for a new job from time to time. I saw a post on the ALA national web site which I forward to her. It was for a senior position in a well known, yet smaller law firm than her current international firm. This is a position for which she is extremely well qualified for by experience, character, and temperament. I will now post her reply to me:

“Thank you for the tip about the position at (name deleted to protect the guilty), but I have applied for that position last time around, about a year ago, and had several interviews with them. They did not have the courtesy to inform me that they had selected another candidate. They are rude. They have also not given their staff a pay increase in three years. It would not be a move up for me.”

This speaks for itself on so many levels, none of them inspirational. I was also engaged in a conversation with an attorney on a question that boiled down to what was right over what was wrong. I have a feeling I understand how Job felt after wrestling with the Angel. In a nutshell, the attorney was quick to pull out his “ethical bible”, the ABA rules of professional conduct. This attorney prepared his case to me citing chapter and verse as to why the rules were silent and in fact were intentionally silent on the issue at hand. I actively listened to his points as to why he wanted to do what he was intending to do. I acknowledged that there was no bar to it in the rules of professional conduct. I replied with the clarity of my convictions, that the reason he was torturing me with his “bible” was that his conscious needed no accusing.

You can’t find “permission” in the rules of conduct. What he was defending was wrong in the plain light of day. The rules of professional conduct are no “bible”; they are in fact a “minimum standard” like the law itself; they are prohibitions, not permission. I would not yield the ground no matter what the pay day (yes his motivation was money). I have to believe that there was a time when “we” did not hide behind minimum standards of conduct. That there was a time when we called things based on the simplicity of the golden rule. For my take on the subject the most “evil” is done when we publish minimum standards and don’t call them such. “The Minimum Rules of Professional Conduct”: to title them this and to learn them under this color would preempt so many good people from straying from the golden rule.

Degraded times: when candidates are not treated with respect, employees are not compensated for their contributions because of PPP, and attorneys take minimum standards of conduct as the standard for their conduct.