Notre Dame lecturer: ethics, not profit
Visiting professor advises Boyd school on business practices
According to one lecturer, doing the lucrative thing may not be as rewarding as doing the right thing.
Father David Link, professor, priest and the Joseph A. Matson Dean Emeritus at Notre Dame Law School, discussed ethics in business and legal professions on Monday in the UNLV law school’s Thomas and Mack Moot Court facility.
Link’s lecture, titled “Ethics of Business and Legal Professions,” shed light on the issue of unethical practices that he said business and law officials engage in regularly in pursuit of their own interests.
William S. Boyd School of Law dean John Valery White said Link’s lecture involved discussion on topics relevant to the Boyd School’s students and professors.
“When we found out that the Hesburgh series was sending Father Link, we were very happy to be able to participate,” White said. “It was a natural fit because he speaks about business and legal ethics, which we take very seriously.”
Link began his lecture by pointing out that business and legal workers are among the least trusted professionals in America.
“How did we go from being one of the most respected professions in history to being less trusted than car salesmen?” Link asked the audience.
Link explained how the topic of ‘ethics’ applies to different fields
“While this lecture will focus on the matter of the deterioration of law and business professions,” Link said. “The points that I will make apply to all professions.”
Link went on to describe what he views as unethical behavior in the business and legal professions.
He said taking credit for another person’s work, taking advantage of one’s employees for the purpose of making a profit and staff members not taking accountability for their actions are all negative actions of workers in the business and legal fields.
“An old boss of mine once said to me and my fellow employees that no one will ever be fired for failing to make a profit,” Link said, “but those who take advantage of their fellow employees to try to get ahead [could clean] out their office[s].’”
Link explained that this statement helped him see the meaning of ethics.
“The true practice of ethics is an art form,” Link said. “The best lawyers and business people have to be artists.”
Link said more than following the rules is necessary for a person to be considered a truly ethical professional in his eyes.
“Acting in the spirit of public service is having good ethics,” Link said. “People who follow the rules are just rule followers, but people who go beyond the rules to do what is right are truly ethical.”
Wendy Whitsett, a Notre Dame alumna, shared her views about the importance of ethics in the professional world.
“[Important ethical guidelines that] businesses should follow are just staying within the boundaries of the law,” Whitsett said, “and ensuring that employees feel safe and comfortable coming to their employers about issues.”
James Stoner, a small business owner and communications major, also shared some of the ethical rules he believes are important for employers to pursue.
“Honesty is the most important thing that employers should go by,” Stoner said. “There needs to be a paradigm shift in things like insider trade. People in business need to be responsible and honest.”
Whitsett went on to describe what she hoped to take away from attending the event.
“I hope to gain a sense of community,” Whitsett said, “but more so than that, I hope to learn more about the ethics of businesses because I am a young [alumna] still trying to establish myself in a professional career.”
Whitsett talked about the role that following ethical behavior can play in the way that businesses operate.
“If you get employees engaged in projects [by treating them fairly],” Whitsett said, “it gives them a sense of responsibility and obligation to ensure that things are done correctly.”
Link made reference to the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” and talked about the ethical behavior the fictional lawyer, Atticus Finch, exudes in the story.
Link said he believes a lawyer is someone who uses the law, but an attorney helps his or her clients by standing in their shoes and really tries to understand them.
“Atticus Finch was not a good lawyer,” Link said. “He lost a lot of his cases, but he went out of his way to help those in need, even when he knew he would lose the case, because it was the right thing to do, which makes him a good attorney.”
Link concluded his lecture by talking about the overall role that people in the professional realm have as “healers” to the community.
“Business people, lawyers and professionals forget that their real job is healing in the community,” Link said. “Helping people solve conflicts and repair relationships.”
White said he wanted students to leave the lecture thinking about encounters in the business world that may challenge their conception of ethics.