Does Your Legal Department Need a Code of Conduct?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 06, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Without a code of conduct in its legal department, a company is like a rudderless ship.

The rudder, a relatively small device on a ship, dictates its direction. In a storm, a rudderless ship will flounder and likely capsize.

Likewise, a company will fail without a corporate legal department guided by a code of conduct. It gives lawyers direction and a moral compass in troubled times.


According to studies, 73 percent of workers in an organization with a written code of conduct believe it helps them do their jobs. It gives them direction about decisions before they have to make them.

Of course, it starts at the top of the organization. If the leader doesn't have an ethical compass, the entire organization suffers.

Writing for Chron, Audra Bianca says that managers especially should be versed in the code and be prepared to give employees direction. She says they should address "concerns of employees carefully, looking at the short-term and long-term ramifications."

For legal departments, it's critical when it comes to compliance. Outside and inside counsel should be ready to give clients ethical and legal direction -- especially when a company starts to veer.


Uber learned this lesson the hard way.

Founder Travis Kalanick was forced to resign after the company's corporate culture became toxic. According to reports, "rampant sexism" and "organizational chaos" brought the ship down.

Covington & Burling, a law firm hired to investigate the problem, reported that Uber had a "frequently chaotic and hostile work environment without adequate systems in place to ensure that violations such as sexual harassment and retaliatory behavior were dealt with professionally."

The lawyers did their job, applying ethical and legal standards to get the company back on course and the founder out, of course.

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