Monday, February 04, 2008

Research and Morals - What Would You Do?

What do or would you do if you are asked to do research that goes against your personal morals? That question is posed over at the Enquiring Minds Want to Know blog by Jennifer Vass and Davina Gifford. Below is the response I posted in their blog. What would you do?

It helps to have thought out what your barriers are in advance and worked out a policy. I have always maintained that librarians, when calling outside the firm for information, should:
(1) identify our name and who our employer is ("Hello this is Mary Smith, I am a librarian at the Big Smart law firm") and
(2) not identify the name of the lawyer or client on whose behalf we are calling, unless requested or given permission to do so. This is because the client and/or matter is often confidential.

When asked to do something that goes against these principles (especially #1), I explain the policy and stand firm. I have been known to even maintain #2 inside the law firm when calling another lawyer for advice on the research depending on the circumstances and the culture of the firm.

Can you think of certain policy you were put into place to help you deal with this in the future?

The lawyer ethic is that everyone, not matter what he or she has done, has the right to legal representation. That can certainly put you in the position of doing research on behalf of someone or some organization you do not personally believe in and would prefer not to support. Depending on how much this bothers you, you need to think about whether you can work for an employer that supports this organization. Are your feelings strong enough to make you want to leave that organization? This is something you need to ask yourself.

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