8th January 2021

The TTM Ethics Project – Share your knowledge and expertise

A CONFIDENTIAL and ANONYMOUS open resource – how lawyers navigate ethical issues and deal with in-house legal department pressures.

The GFC exposed the flawed working parts of several companies - famously some General Counsel’s erred in their duties to their company, the court, regulatory bodies and more besides.

Some GCs spent time inside modelling orange jumpsuits.

Some regulators expressed surprise that in-house lawyers kept their jobs given the company’s actions.

This pandemic, and the resultant shocks to businesses, will likely similarly shape company culture.

The colossal pressures and strains on companies (and their employees) in the coming months and years won’t simply vanish. Even without the pandemic, stress and pressure, pitfalls and conflicts, are an inherent part of the in-house counsel role. Whether acknowledged and addressed, or otherwise.

Pressure can make people do strange things.GCs are, or should be, a promoter, a supporter and an active defender of a strong, vibrant and ethical company culture. Regardless of who ultimately ‘owns’ that responsibility.

This isn’t just about the letter of the law. It can’t be.

It seems to me as an ex-GC that some of the most mentally draining conundrums faced in-house are in that amorphic intersection of obligations to court and regulator, local custom and practice (wherever in the world that may be), company culture, shifting societal mores and personal belief systems.

Yet we seem a long way off openly discussing the pressures endured, the uncertainties to be grappled with, the conflicts to be navigated and the skills required of the in-house legal department, to safely plot a path through the myriad of complex issues.

These issues affect large multi nationals, small companies, charities, public and private sector enterprises alike.

The lack of real openness in the profession about this type of ethical (and beyond) dilemma is understandable on one level - it could be due to any number of reasons including possible breach of confidentiality, fear of retribution internally, embarrassment...

BUT:

We engage with, and benefit from, hearing other people’s stories. A story that’s true really brings the issues to life.

It’s a strange person who puts their hand in a fire having seen someone else receive 3rd degree burns doing the same thing. The trouble is you have to see the fire to keep your hands well clear.

Sometimes, it’s more a case of slowly boiling a frog.

Guidelines and rule books are fine but absent real life experience applying them in new and novel (to the person in question perhaps only gently boiling at that time) circumstances can be exceedingly difficult.

Specific practical examples are hugely beneficial. The stories from the trenches and the baring of the wounds to validate them.

As we have with the TTM Law Firm Diversity Index we are curating an open resource for the in-house profession – this time focussing on real life ethical dilemmas experienced by fellow professionals.All experiences can be shared entirely CONFIDENTIALLY and ANONYMOUSLY using this form.

This project will progress in phases, striving to be a dynamic and useful resource as it evolves. As the themes of the issues emerge during this initial phase we aim to then make information and advice available on the issues and in a format that you tell us works best for you in the in-house environment.

Please do SHARE this within your legal networks to gather as many working examples as possible from both in-house and private practice lawyers.

Share your knowledge and expertise

Many thanks