Volume 35

Moral Convergence: The Rules of Professional Responsibility Should Apply to Lawyers in Business Ethics

by Riaz Tejani

This article argues that the rules of professional responsibility should extend to lawyers advising on corporate ethical questions. It establishes how lawyers became ethical advisors to business organizations and then suggests that the ethical foundations of law and business have converged in a manner that brings their conceptions of “right versus wrong” increasingly into alignment. It finds evidence for this in two parallel developments. The first is a series of scandals that have rocked the corporate world and are likely symptoms of a larger phenomenon; the second is a series of key doctrines that have permeated professional education in law and promoted profit maximization as a shorthand for justice. Between these two parallel stories lie shared ethical concepts that embody the convergence in values to which this article attends. Whereas this convergence might make decision making easier, it diminishes ethical rigor within organizations. With that in mind, the following pages advance two related claims. A descriptive one argues that the resulting moral convergence is a condition in which managers and lawyers effectively rely on one another’s conceptions of “right” rather than applying separate moral standards to ethical problems, thereby diminishing the rigor of ethical judgment in the business context. And a prescriptive claim argues that the rules of professional responsibility could help resolve this by extending their reach to cover lawyers advising on ethical questions in business organizations.

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