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Ethics and the Law, Research Paper Example

Pages: 9

Words: 2366

Research Paper

Introduction

Ethics and the law occupy a central place in everything that we do in life. Be it in business or in our private lives, ethics and law control how we behave ourselves and how we do what we do. The concepts of law and ethics are closely related to each other so much that in some cases one can be used in place of the other. Although they may be closely related to each other, there is still a dividing line between what is considered moral or ethical and what is legal. However, in most cases morality and the law control each other such that what is considered moral control what forms the law and what is considered legal forms much of the body of ethical regulations in the society. For the legal professionals who are the keepers of the law, ethics occupy a very important place in the practice of their profession. Likewise, every individual in any profession is aware of the rules that conduct how things are done in their profession.

Before Ethics in the legal profession is discussed, it is imperative that a complete understanding of ethics is established. Ethics are set standards that control the behavior of individuals in the society or a group of people in a given profession. Simply, ethics is the accepted way that something is done in the society. In other sense, it controls what is considered moral and immoral in the society. This therefore means that some ethical standards may be the same in all places or may vary from one place to another depending on the culture of a people. This is because there are several aspects of culture and religion that determine what is moral and immoral in the society. The same aspects of culture and religion of a people also determine the law of a given place (Wueste, 1996).

Every profession today has a set of rules that controls the way that its members conduct their professional work.  It guides members towards making their working experience in the given working body more professional and more acceptable both to the members of the profession and also to the law and those outside the profession. Most of the ethical regulations of professions in the society today are controlled by the law (Wueste, 1996). This means that unethical acts by members of the given profession can be punished by the law. Most professions also have set the way that such penalties are to be executed. The main aim of ethics in any profession is to facilitate honest and just working among the members of any given profession and also to improve professionalism. Most legal battles about people in their work involve individuals who have conducted their work in unprofessional manner or about individuals who have conducted themselves in their course of their work in ways that bridge the professional ethics that have been put in place by their professional bodies (Nelson, 2006).

In the legal profession, the International Bar Association formed in the year 1947 controls ethical regulations of the top legal professionals in the US. The other professional body that regulates the legal profession is the State Bar Association which controls the legal profession on regional basis. This is because there are ethical regulations on the legal profession that may vary from one region to the other. The professional bodies in the legal profession guide their members of the ways that they are to conduct their work in their places of work and also in some cases when they are not acting in their official capacities. It should be noted that, just like culture is dynamic, the ethical regulations by professional bodies always change from time to time depending on the change of societal views about some pertinent issues about life and also how business is conducted (Baase, 1997).

As already mentioned, ethical and legal regulations control almost everything that goes on in a given profession. In the legal profession, ethics controls major issues that include, employment, termination of employment, relationship between a legal professional and their clients. It also regulates the type of relation a legal professional and another legal professional. It provides a guideline of the way that legal professionals are expected to conduct themselves in their workplaces (offices) courts and also out of courts.

Ethics, Morals and Values

Whenever the question of ethics is brought up, there is always the question of how closely related are ethics and morality and values? It is often difficult to provide a total distinction between them. In many cases, they are used one in place of the other. This is because the terms have very minimal difference in their meanings and functionality. The most noticeable difference in the usage of the terms is in their functionality. Gilliland, Steiner, & Skarlicki, (2007) provide that the difference between ethics morals and values is that ethics and values constrain an individual while values motivates an individual in doing something. Still such distinction is not that clear. Depending on what an individual is engaged, the function of ethics morals and values as provided by Gilliland, Steiner, & Skarlicki can still be reversed. Although the difference between the terms may not be very clear, their functionality is what is of importance. Finding appropriate distinction of the terms is beyond the scope of this paper. However for the understanding of their importance in this discussion, values is provided as to be describing what an individual holds dear or what an individual finds to be important in their life. Ethics and morals shows what is or not considered by a certain group of people to be appropriate or acceptable.

Ethics, morals and values all function towards influencing the behavior of an individual in the society. It influences our behavior towards who we interact with in the society. Ethics, morals and values work in a complex manner towards influencing the behavior of an individual. Each of them contributes in their own unique way. Values which represent the relative worth or quality of an object to an individual influences whether something becomes desirable or undesirable to the individual. The value that we attach to something always forms the basis of the decision that we are to make on it. It forms the centre of an individual’s judgment. The value that we attach to a certain individual or something determines our behavior towards that person or object. Ethics on the other hand represents what the society uses to judge an individual’s behavior on morality. Simply it is the standards of measuring whether a behavior is considered right or wrong in the society. To effectively understand how ethics, morals and values in the society influence the behavior, it is essential that a clear example is used to illustrate. An individual may really want be a successful (rich) businessman. There are two options for him to achieve this. He may decide to be really hard working or may decide to use unorthodox means such as stealing from his clients. In the given example, the strong desire for richness represents their value for richness and ethics is used in defining what is good or bad which in this case is represented by stealing from his clients, and working hard. The value that the individual attaches to richness or wealth makes them choose to uphold morality and ethics or not. Ethical judgments basically represent the degree of wrongness of rightness in every human behavior.

In professionalism, ethics is always used to define what is acceptable or not in a given profession. Although this may still be confused with morality, its usage has stood out and is more understood than morality.

Law and Professional Ethics  

Any profession has individuals that are drawn from various cultural and other different backgrounds. The values that each has concerning different aspects of life may affect the way that they handle their professional responsibility. Such influences in one way or the other affect the service or product that the professionals are expected to offer to their clients. In order to effectively minimize the effects of an individual’s culture on the work that they are engaged in, the law professional code of ethics is used to provide behavior guidance to all individuals in professions.

Professional codes of ethics are set of behavior rules that guide behavior in a given profession. Professional ethics are just as similar with other ethics as provided earlier in this paper, ethics influence the way that individuals behave depending on their values. Every professional carries an additional moral responsibility from those of the general public (Nelson, 2006) due to the additional or the informed choice that they can make as a result of their education, training or experience in the field.

With the law being the sole most coercive power when it comes to guiding behavior and values, most professional ethics are controlled by the law. Professional bodies set their ethics and the law is used to ensure that deviance from the set ethics is punished. The attachment of professional ethics to the law is in some cases so much that whatever is considered professional misconduct is punishable by the law. This association of professional ethics and the law has made such professional ethics to be part of the laws of operation in any given profession. However, it should be noted that all deviation or misconduct from professional ethics is not punishable by law. Some professional bodies have their institutionalized ways that they handle such matters. Gross professional misconduct in many professions is always regulated by professions through laid down punitive measures which are always made a common knowledge to members of the given profession. Major ways that professional bodies punish their members include, subjecting them to re-examination, suspension and total withdrawal of professional certification when such professional misconduct is judged to be extreme.

Most professional constraints encountered by individuals today are as a result of professional ethics. The law also acts as a major source of such constrains. However the law differs from other types of constrains due to it being having strong authority and also immense coercive power (Wueste, 1996). Although professional responsibility is also considered one of the constraints in professionalism, it is just one of the ways which legal constrains is manifested. Professional responsibility is also in some cases regarded as the basic form of legal constraints on professionalism.

Responses To Ethical Issues

As already indicated ethics provides a continuum for judging whether something is wrong or right in a given context. This definition of what is right or wrong depends so much on the event, who was involved and also where and under what circumstances. In most cases ethical issues are identified by their tempering with what is considered ethical or unethical in the society. In business, ethical issues include use of unpaid or forced labor, use of child labor, trading in illegal goods, overpricing, donation and helping the poor. Depending on the ethical issue that an individual is involved in, most ethical issues elicit different responses in different publics depending on the ethical issue at hand.

Positive ethical issues are always rewarded by bodies that aim at maintaining morality in the society. However, most positive ethical happenings always go unnoticed as the society always takes to it as part of the responsibility of the doer. In most cases, most responses relating to ethical issues are always those arising from complains about the regulations of a given body or individuals who have not upheld their morality or the ethical issues in their profession. These complain in most cases lead to legal battles. The nature of ethical responses are always legal sues over an individual or the entire professional body which was responsible for instituting the given regulations to its members. A good example of a classic response to ethical issue is a woman suing her employer for privacy violation for the former employing male security officers to monitor changing lockers to reduce theft in the organization premises.

Pro’s and Con’s of Professional Ethics

Having realized the nature and functions of professional ethics, it is now important to assess the whether they have any advantages or disadvantages.

So many are the times when the importance of having professional ethics has been questioned. The resulting reason reinforces the institutionalization of the professional ethics. Key among them is the protection of both the client and practitioner in some circumstances. To those in the profession, it provides a guideline to be followed while at the same time providing the set responsibilities and ideals of the profession. In many cases it helps raise the profile of a given profession by helping the professionals be aware of issues that are in their profession. In some cases, some professional ethics can be a liability to the profession, professional and also the client being served. Depending on the circumstances, some professional ethics can be totally disadvantageous especially those which have not been updated. Some professions can be very rigid concerning their procedures how certain happenings are to be handled. Although the procedures may be as a result of long research and testing, some situations may demand to be handled differently. A good example of such case is the case of medical ethics which requires that its members follow the code of ethics and procedures strictly even in cases of emergency. So depending on whether an individual is the client, practitioner or the professional body, professional ethics can beneficial or disadvantageous.

In conclusion, the law and professional ethics play a very important role in regulating that every aspect of life and business in the society. Having realized the importance of having professional ethics and the law, it is important that every individual upholds the ethics and professional code conduct in the society. For a just, peaceful and honest society, the law should be given authority to have control over all the ethical and moral issues in the society.

References

Baase, S. (1997). A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal and Ethical Issues in Computing. New York: Prentice Hall.

Gilliland, S. Steiner, D.D. & Skarlicki, D. (2007).Managing social and ethical issues in organizations. New York: IAP.

Nelson, B.L. (2006).Law and ethics in global business: how to integrate law and ethics into corporate governance around the world. New York: McGraw Hill Professional.

Wueste, D.E. (1996). Professional ethics and social responsibility. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

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