Ethical issues and problems are a reality for law firms everywhere. When it occurs, it is something that should never be overlooked. When working with an unethical attorney or firm, any experienced paralegal will tell you that if you are about to enter the legal market, you have to be prepared to face – and if necessary, run from – unethical dilemmas.
The power to face problems of this nature is part guts and part theoretical experience. Paralegal schools, fortunately, educate students about attorney and paralegal ethics. This education serves as the students’ guidance once they finally make their way into the often imperfect and riveting legal market.
Recognizing the Issue
Sometimes, ethical dilemmas come in the form of overblown drama or misplaced and convoluted issues. These still need your attention and proper corrective action, as any drama or issues in your firm can actually lead to offenses such as an interoffice tiffs, grievances, or a bad temperament; although this is not a real ethical dilemma yet.
An actual ethical dilemma touches and violates personal and professional ethics, values and morals. For example, you’re a new certified paralegal and you start working for a firm. A few weeks in, you notice there are discrepancies with their trust account. You are asked to sign a false affidavit. What do you do?
Taking a Side
In this type of situation, you are tested. If you sign, you’re part of the firm’s discrepancy with their trust account and their potential for embezzlement. If you sign, you’re made into an accomplice. If you don’t, you risk going against your boss and the possibility of losing your job. If you went through a good paralegal school, you know what the right thing to do is – and how hard it is.
The only way out of an ethical dilemma such as this is in. You need to report the issue to the right authority and let their higher judgment play god to the sticky situation you’re in. Your career might be in jeopardy, but your moral compass is intact. As they say, keep your heels high and your morals straight.