As we begin a new MBA year, let’s reflect a bit on what has happened in the business world over the past 8-12 months, and what continues to happen on an almost daily basis. Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Xerox, Adelphia, Arthur Anderson; the list goes on. U.S. capital markets continue to suffer from an erosion in confidence, a lack of competent leadership and a business culture borne of greed, arrogance and deception rather than fiscal responsibility, credibility and honesty.
Just what role do (or should) lawyers play in this drama? Where are we as a profession, and what do we stand for? Have we been heard from and do we have a message to deliver about what is going on in corporate boardrooms across the country? Do we champion integrity and accountability? Or are we more concerned about keeping our heads down and weathering this storm without comment or commitment?
As a bar association founded by such principled, intellectual giants as Louis D. Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes, we owe it to our legacy, our constituency and our profession to speak out and stand up against the corruption and dishonesty infecting our business environment.
But much more than that, we need to set an example and lead by example. Integrity, honesty and credibility must be our hallmarks and our watchwords.
As a profession, we cannot let a single day go by without reaffirming this to ourselves and to those who look to us for leadership and guidance. No platitudes, just action. We need to live and practice in a manner that fosters and encourages professionalism and integrity. We need to stand up and be heard — but more important than being heard, let your actions speak more than your words.
Remember the definition of character? It’s “how you act when no one is looking.” Do we have the moral courage to act as we should without someone watching, and to help regain lost confidence and disappearing respect in our business community? Let’s find out.