Total Pageviews

Monday, May 30, 2011

Conscious Capitalism

     In an April 4, 2011 article The National Law Journal discusses Bentley University professor Raj Sisodia's concept of "conscious capitalism".  Simply stated, Professor Sisodia suggests that corporations, or other business entities, that have a "sense of higher purpose" often excel financially as well. As a starting point Sisodia suggests that management ask itself whether the firm would be missed if it disappeared. If the firm is fixated only on its own bottom line it is less likely to be able to answer that question in the affirmative.
     Sisodia suggests that firms should not be driven by the notion of creating value for themselves, or by creating value for their clients at the expense of others. Implicit in this concept is the idea that you can seek value for your clients without doing so at either the expense of third parties or the firm's own success. Firms that practice "conscious capitalism" are often highly profitable says Sisodia. Of course, Sisodia notes that there are forms of compensation other than money, and firms should not too quickly discount these benefits of doing well by others.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What They Say ABout the Law

       Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982) is best known as a poet ("Ars Poetica", etc.), but he was also a lawyer. He once wrote the following in an article called "Apologia":

          "The business of the law is to make sense of the confusion of what we call human life--to reduce it to    
            order but at the same time to give it possibility, scope, even dignity."
      With respect to his chosen craft of poetry he added:

           "But what, then, is the business of poetry? Precisely to make sense of the chaos of our lives. To
             create the understanding of our lives. To compose an order which the bewildered, angry heart
             can recognize. To imagine man."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Work for Free or Else

    There has been a debate going on in Mississippi about a proposed rule that would require every attorney to perform pro bono ("for good"/free) work. There has been an additional proposal in some quarters that would allow attorneys to "buy out" of the pro bono requirement for $500.00.
     It is a noble concept that every lawyer--every person for that matter--should do good works for those who cannot afford their services. Forced altruism is a miserable and untenable concept, however. Many lawyers already do such work and feel they are contributing to the public good. Lawyers should also have the option of not doing such work. Even to lawyers with liberal leanings, like me, the idea of mandatory pro bono smacks of extreme government overreaching. The idea also has a slight flavor of narcissism: we lawyers and the services we provide are so essential that no citizen, regardless of their ability to pay, should be denied them. Legal services certainly are important, sometimes critically so, but no justification exists for forced pro bono. The law already requires that indigent criminal defendants be provided with counsel at little or no cost. This requirement stems from the 1963 case Gideon v. Wainwright.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Doing good for the homeless.

     St. Francis House is a day shelter in Boston that serves homeless men and women. Based on the idea of affirming the value and dignity of every person, St. Francis House provides food, shelter, clothing, showers, medical care, and mental health and substance abuse counseling. The staff also provides educational and rehabilitative services to help the homeless find jobs and housing, and otherwise improve their lives.
     Sometimes St. Francis House reaches out to the community to obtain services that it would otherwise be unable to provide. For example, St. Francis House provides its clients a legal clinic at no cost. Clients are able to sit down one-on-one with a volunteer lawyer to discusss whatever kind of legal problem they have. At various times these lawyers have been provided by private firms, The Catholic Lawyers Guild, the Lawyers Clearinghouse on Affordable Housing and Homelessness, and other organizations.
     The types of legal problems run the gamut: criminal cases, landlord-tenant issues, problems regarding eligibility for public assistance, employment discrimination, and even estates and personal injury, and other types of cases. Sometimes a client's legal problem is a creation of a psychiatric problem. Everyone is treated with dignity. Legal problems don't always get solved; sometimes there really isn't a legal problem, sometimes a critical deadline has passed, sometimes the client just needs to vent.
     The lawyers who staff the legal clinic do so with no fanfare, gladly giving up some of their valuable time to help the less fortunate.