The current college admissions scandal. How awful.
Not that we did not suspect lack of fair play in college admissions. We all are aware of the legacy preferences and how the issues of societal inequities play out in this setting, but the magnitude of the alleged criminal behavior and its impact on applicants nationwide is nothing short of disgusting — and very predictable. It was only a matter of time before the misplaced motives of helicopter parents reached such a low.
Coincidentally, my new book addresses the erosion of values in the legal profession, specifically the current toxic cultures of many large law firms. In What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2018, I discuss the respectable values that have been lost or seriously ignored in our profession for too long and the resurgence of those values in the most recent generations of lawyers. I also discuss the destructive behavior of helicopter parents.
This recent scandal confirms my suspicions that the lessons of that book have a larger application beyond the profession of law. The values discussed in What Millennial Lawyers Want include honor, respect, compassion, and service to others, values that are resurfacing in the Millennial Generation and in millennial lawyers today. The recent scandal should serve to increase an awareness of the importance of those values.
Fortunately, the behaviors involved in the college admissions scandal are not typical of any generation. The players in this scandal are from a tiny segment of society that most of us will never know. They are from a small pocket of elitism and entitlement that most members of society do not identify with and cannot even imagine. The behaviors are selfish and destructive on multiple levels and have so many offensive and reprehensible layers, including the layer of betrayal of what it means to be compassionate, honorable and responsive to the needs of others.
And now, as if to add insult to injury, students at Stanford and other schools with alleged connections to this scandal, have filed suit claiming that their educational experiences will be devalued by the scandal. That somehow they are the injured parties instead of opportunists jumping in to take advantage of any benefit they see for themselves.
These new litigants have lost their way and display the same selfish attitudes as those caught up in the scandal. They are not the harmed, but their attempts to portray themselves in that manner expose the degree to which the values in our society have eroded.
We must reclaim the positive values that once were the bedrock of our society. We hear that message in the political arena on a daily basis, but too often we feel powerless to do anything about it. But powerless in the political arena is different from being powerless in our own lives and professions.
So, let the effort to reclaim proven values begin with the lawyers, whose ethical considerations and cannons of behavior once meant something. Let it begin with the lawyers, who are required to study ethics in law school and are tested on ethical behavior on bar exams because truth and admirable behavior is what we should expect of ourselves.
There is no need in our profession for devising an effective code of behavior. We already have one. All we have to do is dust it off and live up to it — and require that same commitment by our law firms and institutions.
Don’t waste your time on the super elite and entitled. The criminal justice system will take care of them — at least until the next time.
There is plenty of work for all of us right here below the stratosphere.