Honesty is the best policy

The average person is relatively honest. Why do we create rules that force otherwise honest people to lie?

We do this to many people. Think first about physicians.

For some reason, New Mom and Baby should spend one extra night at the hospital. Mom and Baby are doing fine, but the doctor sees a reason for one more night of rest. What does Doc do?

The insurance company won’t pay for, and Mom can’t afford, an extra night at the hospital, so Doc lies: He falsely notes that Baby is “jaundiced,” which justifies the necessary night at the hospital. The rules have turned Doc into a liar.

I’m sure that’s just the start of what the insurance bureaucracy does to turn honest physicians into routine liars. But I’m thinking today of rules that turn perfectly honest lawyers into liars. Once you start thinking about it, you’ll come up with endless examples . . .

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Above the Law readers are a surprising bunch. After three weeks of voting, the University of Michigan Law School has emerged as the most honest law school in all the land.

Michigan. Can you believe it? I guess all the “Wolverine Scholars” shadiness didn’t stick.

Let’s check out the bracket and the final vote total for Michigan’s victory…

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We are at the final showdown for our March Madness bracket, and all the private school sissy-boys have been kicked to the curb. Apparently, you can’t buy your way into a moral or ethical principle. Only the state can inculcate you into virtue.

For the first time, I think ever or at least as long as I’ve been here, in an ATL contest of law schools, the final battle is between two state schools. And it happens in our contest about honesty and ethics. I guess there’s a lot of truth that comes out after a long round of flip-cup….

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We’re at the final four.

In real life, I am in a pitched battle for second place in my NCAA tournament poll with these guys. I can’t win because the guy in first has the exact same bracket as I do from here on out. But I can still finish second, so long as one of my “friends” who is actually a floppy-headed Kansas fan doesn’t get his JayHicks into the finals.

In more law related news, our Most Honest Law School bracket is chugging along.

But there were some upsets in round 2….

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The real March Madness has been batsh*t crazy. Lehigh? Norfolk State? As sometimes ATL contributor Marc Edelman pointed out, schools that have top law schools took a beating with their basketball teams. Harvard, Michigan, UVA, Duke, Georgetown, and Texas were all in the tournament, and now they’re all sitting at home.

But in the Above the Law bracket, top schools survive and thrive. We’re asking readers to pick the most honest law school. We’re asking readers to tell us which law school graduates are the most honorable and ethical in their private practice.

So far, the readers are telling us they’re unable to understand anything beyond what U.S. News tells us….

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Get your brackets ready, March Madness is here! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, at least for those who enjoy illegally gambling with co-workers.

Every year, we here at Above the Law like to put together a little bracket of our own. In the past, we’ve asked you to vote for such things as the coolest law firm or the douchiest law school.

This year, we’ve come up with a question that you don’t hear a lot of people asking when they’re talking about pursing a career in law: Which law school is the most honest?

Don’t start checking you LST transparency index just yet. Sure, being honest to prospective or incoming students can be a factor in a law school’s reputation for honesty. But we want to look at this question in the broadest possible sense….

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Okay, I confess: I made the headline intentionally provocative. You shouldn’t lie at all, and you should absolutely forbid witnesses from lying under oath. (If we, the lawyers, don’t obey the law, who will?)

I’m thinking today about a person who is not under oath and will be sorely tempted to tell an obvious lie. Don’t do that yourself, and advise others that it’s not great idea, too.

When are people tempted to tell obvious lies?

In the corporate context, a quarterly earnings announcement might boldly proclaim that the company earned $1 per share this quarter. The Street expected only 90 cents, so this appears to be great news. But there’s something else tucked into the earnings report that disappoints the analysts: revenue declined; margins compressed; organic revenue growth stalled; whatever. Thus, despite the happy headline, the stock price drops two bucks on the day of the earnings announcement.

The next week, you, or the head of your department, or the head of a business unit, or whoever, has to brief an internal audience about the quarterly results. The speaker will be sorely tempted to tell an obvious lie: He’ll pull excerpts from the slide deck used for the earnings announcement, emphasize that the company beat the Street’s consensus estimate by ten cents a share, and tell the gang that we had a great quarter.

Meanwhile, everyone in the room is thinking: “If we had such a great quarter, why did the stock price crater on the news? Do you think I’m an idiot? Why are you lying to me, and do you lie often?”

I’m no expert in corporate communications, but it strikes me that it’s a bad idea to tell obvious lies. How do you avoid telling obvious lies?

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