Legal Ethics

Ethics Matter, But Don’t Be Naive About It

In my first year of practice, a client asked me to advise him concerning his plan to build a sign for his restaurant.  The sign was to sit at sidewalk level and would be 6 feet high and 20 feet long with flashing neon lights.  It did not take long for me to determine that the sign would contravene the city’s by-laws and to tell him not to do it.

The client was furious with me.  He angrily explained to me that it was not my job to give him business advice.  In his mind, my role as the lawyer was simply to tell him what the law said and what the penalties were for breaking the law.  It was his job to make the determination whether it was a good business decision to break the law.  

That was my introduction to business ethics and how the practice of law fits in.