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  • To better ensure ethical legal practice, law firms need to take a number of practical, cultural and psychological steps.
  • Put in place ethical infrastructure, such as policies and procedures, but then test that they function correctly and are properly supported.
  • Be aware of the psychology of decision-making and how limits on cognition and rationalisations can undermine ethical conduct.

Lawyers face ethical dilemmas on a regular basis. To assist lawyers avoid breaches of ethical requirements, law firms will usually adopt policies and procedures aimed at assisting and streamlining compliance. However, firms need to go beyond policies and procedures and ensure they are functioning effectively. This includes making sure law firm culture is supportive of ethical practice and does not undermine more formal procedures. In addition, lawyers and their firms need to be familiar with human shortcomings such as limits on cognition and rationalisations.

A functioning ethical infrastructure, a supportive law firm culture and an awareness of the psychology of decision-making are important and mutually reinforcing requirements for ethical practice.

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