26 February 2021

Ethics and new lawyers

How are bad apples getting into the barrel?

A solicitor, qualified in 2017, forged a decree absolute for a client's divorce, and got two clients to pay fees of around £1,600 each into her personal account instead of to her firm. 

What has happened to the intake of my profession? I am disturbed at a case like this one - a very junior solicitor abusing her position in blatant but, in terms of the gain involved, minor ways. Solicitors should have such a thorough grounding in ethics that no-one could be any doubt that doing these things was completely wrong. There may be some malicious individuals who train as lawyers in order to subvert the legal system, but surely they target clients in organised crime or look to pull off some large fraud? Why would you go through all the hard work stress and cost of qualifying only to throw it away? Are there really people passing all those exams who who have no moral commitment to their clients and are also too stupid to realise the inevitability of these petty offences being discovered, or the inevitable penalties?

Do students no longer get the moralistic grounding I got from my chain-smoking ethics lecturer, dismissing any departure from the highest standards as "very shoddy"?
Or is it that we are not looking after our young people well enough? Is there more to be done to protect mental health and make sure that those we trust to administer justice can cope with the pressures put on them?

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