Lawyers and law students are taught how to spot ethical issues through analysis of hypothetical situations. When it comes to recognizing our own ethical mistakes, there appears to be a disconnect between the ability to apply that knowledge to theoretical situations and to use it to resolve situations in practice. In their article Behavior Ethics and the Four-Component Model of Moral Judgment and Behavior, authors Milton C. Regan, Jr. and Nancy L. Sachs respond to Associate Dean Catherine Gage O’Grady’s analysis of the “dynamics that can affect new lawyer’s ability to recognize that they have made a mistake and their willingness to acknowledge it to others.” As both O’Grady and the authors point out, these kinds of mistakes can have significant ethical implications if the mistaken attorney cannot or will not acknowledge the impact of her error. In order to assist in the process of acknowledgment and avoid ethical issues, Regan and Sachs propose a framework for guiding these issues to their appropriate conclusion. Regan and Sachs find value in the union of psychology and ethics to guide the thinking of a new lawyer deciding whether to acknowledge her mistake to others and the ethical violations that can arise from that choice.
Lawyers often struggle to recognize and learn from their mistakes. Associate Dean Catherine Gage O’Grady has made the argument in her Article, A Behavioral Approach to Lawyer Mistake and Apology, that this is a result of cognitive biases, and offered insight about how law firms might respond to facilitate learning, professional growth, and stronger ethics. In his Response Article, Lawyers, Impression Management and the Fear of Failure, Donald C. Langevoort not only supports O’Grady’s position, but also presents additional reasons to pay close attention to the insight provided by Associate Dean O’Grady.