Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Perlman on Social Acquiescence to Unethical Conduct

Posted by Alan Childress

Before offering to buy Boston a drink, Andrew Perlman (Suffolk) posted to SSRN his new article (also recently in Hofstra L. Rev.) called "Unethical Obedience by Subordinate Attorneys: Lessons from Social Psychology."   It has already had 57 71 downloads.  Here is his abstract:

This Article explores the lessons that we can learn from social psychology regarding a lawyer's willingness to comply with authority figures, such as senior partners or deep-pocketed clients, when they make unlawful or unethical demands. The Article reviews some of the basic literature in social psychology regarding conformity and obedience, much of which emphasizes the importance of context as a primary factor in predicting people's behavior. The Article then contends that lawyers frequently find themselves in the kinds of contexts that produce high levels of conformity and obedience and low levels of resistance to illegal or unethical instructions. The result is that subordinate lawyers will find it difficult to resist a superior's commands in circumstances that should produce forceful dissent. Finally, the Article proposes several changes to existing law in light of these insights, including giving lawyers the benefit of whistleblower protection, strengthening a lawyer's duty to report the misconduct of other lawyers, and enhancing a subordinate lawyer's responsibilities upon receiving arguably unethical instructions from a superiors.

UPDATE (5/23):  The ABA Journal online here linked to and followed up on the above story, and law.com followed up and added to the ABAJ story here.  Congrats, Andy.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2008/05/perlman-on-soci.html

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Comments

Alan,

Two mentions in one day? I'm going to have start paying you for the free publicity.

Your posts are actually related. I plan on presenting a portion of my article at the conference next week. Anyone who is willing to sit through my talk (and give me vigorous applause) gets an extra drink at dinner.

Andy

Posted by: Andrew Perlman | May 20, 2008 6:43:46 PM

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