Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

New Normal

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Total Black: $123.38
Total Red: $227,804.18

Just a bit ago I watched CNBC’s special Banking on Geithner, a town hall with Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner.  I’d never heard him speak before tonight and I must admit I found myself growing more and more impressed and confident in his abilities.  And just at the end he sealed the deal.  In the last question of the town hall Geithner was asked what he understood the oft-bandied about term “new normal” to mean.  As he sees it, our new normal will be a world where people worry less about what they make and more about what they’re doing.  New normal would embrace a new ethic of responsibility in business community.  We’d live in a world where banks ask themselves what they owe country.  Where do I find this wonderful, magical world?

Since beginning my career in law back in 2005 as a summer associate at a large corporate law firm in New York, I’ve quietly but steadily tapped on the ethics drum.  My tapping has grown a bit louder each year, perhaps to the chagrin of my colleagues subject to my incessant pondering about where we’re headed and how those in leadership positions can act as amorally as they’ve done for some time.  I’ve even touched on it in a prior entry, Res Ipsa Loquitur.  Maybe it’s my dual interest in philosophy and law.  Maybe it’s just my personal belief system.  But to me it’s seemed clear that a significant systemic cause of much of our economic, moral, and even spiritual decay is rooted in the passe disregard for ethics.

For some time now it’s been outmoded and unfashionable to show any concern or regard for something other than a bottom line.  According to the blog Law Shucks, over 10,000 people have been laid-off by law firms since January 2008: 4,000 attorneys and 6,000 staff approximately.  That’s as of July 2009.  Law firm partners surely were not concerned about the career development and job security of the associates and staff they brought on board.  They could have lowered their own bottom lines in order to collectively get through these tough times together.  Instead they swept people to the curb in an effort to stem the leaks in their million-dollars annual profits.  One’s left gape-mouthed when confronted with CEOs accepting million-dollar bonus packages when they just accepted billion-dollar rescue packages.  Similarly I doubt aggressive and predatory lenders were truly concerned about fulfilling dreams of American families to own homes.  I wonder too whether doctors care as much about their patients as the old country doctor of fifty years ago may have or do they care more about their pharmaceutical reps.  Maybe so.  Maybe not.  But all of this begs the question whether we should care about each other at all and, if so, how much?

I can’t envision any community surviving very long when it has resorted to complete selfishness.  Thomas Hobbes pretty much walked us through that nasty, brutish, and short existence.  Not somewhere I wish to live.  I’m just left wondering when Business will renew its vows with Social Responsibility.  Seems they’ve been separated too long now.

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