So, the company is a law firm dealing mostly with corporate law, but not only. The story is that today I was asked by another intern/trial period person (who’s been there for two months as opposed to my one week), occupied with something else, to phone and get some information about a client’s proceeding. The person suggested I introduced myself as the client or else the court clerks wouldn’t tell me, and that the law firm didn’t want to expose itself too early as supporting the client (who wasn’t accused but pressing charges). I said I wouldn’t introduce myself under a false name. I was answered something like, “I think I didn’t understand what you said,” and I explained I wouldn’t lie. Consequently, the amount of information wasn’t spectacular. I said, “Ask the guy to phone them or phone later when you have formal powers of representation,” and the reply was, “I’ll pass that on.”
Now I don’t exactly fear the consequences. In fact, they can go play in the railway track. However, I’m worried. That intern was a fresh law graduate and a new doctoral student and I doubt it was that person’s idea… must have seen someone do that, although certainly it doesn’t need to have been our law firm where the idea came from. Also, a lawyer asked me to try and coax some information out of court clerks (his powers hadn’t been handed in, he had an injured leg and the client lived far from there), didn’t ask me to lie, but told me to say he was injured, “which was true, by the way.” I felt bad. I may have overreacted, perhaps it didn’t mean anything, but I’m alarmed for some reason.
What could one do to deal with the situation? The intern isn’t a career-at-all-moral-costs type, it seems to me - the person urged me to find a convenient interpretation of the law to help out a person in a bad situation, while I was sticking by the letter. I did have a sad moment hearing the lawyer (the same one) say he’d go to a criminal court to retrieve the goods as stolen because a criminal court won’t delve into civil matters (intricacies of property transfer to guarantee the payback of a loan) and make problems - I’d feel much better if a civil court explained the ownership matter first before pressing criminal charges (even if no usurpation of property charge works without first giving the offender a couple of requests to return the property as yours, which he can challenge saying it’s not yours and then you just sue each other).
I think I’m going to stay and watch and if more alarming signs pop up, I’ll explain them with the bosses. I worry about the intern, however. I don’t want to rat out that person and all - after all, using a client’s name to get information about the case in which the firm is helping him is not nearly as bad as e.g. a monetary motivation to use a fake name… Some people would look at it as helping the client and would think that not doing it would be cruel. Therefore I don’t think it takes a large level of corruption to be tempted to do that. But I think a future lawyer, a future doctor of law, shouldn’t do such things. And I worry it may have been first used as a tactic by someone higher up the ladder - with or without thinking about the moral side of it.
What would you do in this situation? I’m thinking about posing a general hypothetical question to one of the firm partners and asking, “what would you do in such a situation? I would like to know your opinion.” Then if I don’t like the opinion, I know I need to look for another law firm.