“In-House Lawyers’ Ethics” is a new book by Richard Moorhead, Steven Vaughan and Cristina Godinho.

I qualified as a solicitor on 16 February 1987. It was, and still is, the proudest day of my professional life. Twelve months later I was an in-house lawyer and ever since I have either been an in-house lawyer or advised in-house lawyers. My life’s work has been to ensure that this most misunderstood, often unfairly maligned and often inappropriately exalted part of our profession could fulfil its potential.

In-house lawyers are amazing and infuriating, but now have the greatest possible opportunity to positively influence the world of work like never before.

In-house lawyers work in all shapes and sizes of teams and entities. They work in extraordinary charities, in failed banks, in corrupt corporations, in global companies that change the way society develops, and in family run local factories. They work in institutions at the cutting edge of science, in businesses that impact every aspect of our day-to-day lives and in world-class academic environments. In-house lawyers are in government, in not-for-profit, in our police forces, armies and human rights groups. Individually they are both extraordinary and fragile; collectively they are both a force for good and a governance risk.

We live in extraordinary times. The role of the in-house lawyer has never been more important.

There is a good chance that I have read every book written about in-house lawyers that has ever been published. I have written a bit myself, but this book written by Moorhead, Vaughan and Godinho is, without doubt and by far, the most important book ever written about in-house lawyers.

It is too easy to flatter and too trivial to say it is a “must read”. However, I could not be more certain; The book challenges, cajoles, sometimes snipes, infuriates, encourages and inspires. I suspect some in-house lawyers will hate it, taking issue with the ideas, the data and the analysis, and they will therefore dismiss the conclusions. They are wrong. Others will be terrified by the responsibility and see little hope to make a difference. They are wrong too.

They are wrong because it is not just about the conclusions, it is not just about the ideas, it is not about the tone or the temerity to criticise; it is not even about whether in-house lawyers have a responsibility to make a difference. However, it is about the total, nailed-on, profession-defining, career-defining imperative to accept our responsibility to fulfil the purpose of our professional, ethical duties.

You cannot read the book and not feel challenged. You cannot read the book and not want to be clearer about your purpose, your threats and your opportunities.

Our colleagues and our communities need in-house lawyers to be more than what they have so far achieved. I have read every word of this brilliant book. It is a map. It marks the reefs, rocks and whirlpools. It offers a route through to a better place. If we choose to just follow our instincts, without the map’s insights, we will probably fail; but if we choose to combine our instincts and be guided by the map’s insights, we might make the difference the world needs.

If you are an in-house lawyer, work with in-house lawyers or if one day you might want to become an in-house lawyer, then this book is essential reading.

It has been a privilege to read the book. It marks a profoundly important moment for a great profession. I am extraordinarily grateful to Moorhead, Vaughan and Godinho for their work.

 

Paul Gilbert