Seven Deadly Sins of Ethics and Professionalism
Ellen Lockwood, ACP, RP
Ellen Lockwood, ACP, RP
In counterpoint to the seven deadly sins, Christianity also has seven heavenly virtues: Humility, Kindness, Temperance, Lust, Chastity, Diligence, and Charity. These correspond to seven virtues of ethics and professionalism for paralegals.
Humility, or humbleness, is also selflessness and the giving of respect. Paralegals demonstrate Humility when they give credit where credit is due, and unfairly glorify their own abilities and accomplishments.
Professional paralegals recognize and even applaud the contributions and achievements of others. This is not to say that paralegals should not be proud of their accomplishments, experience,
and abilities, but that bragging and self-aggrandizing is not professional and usually has negative effects.
Kindness is compassion and sympathy, shown to others without bias. Kindness, by definition, is given for it its own sake, thus the expression from Proverbs, “Kindness is its own reward.” Professional paralegals are aware of numerous opportunities to show kindness to your coworkers, clients, and fellow paralegals. If you can do something kind for someone, no matter how small the act, it will make a difference. Even if the other person never notices what you have done, you will become a more compassionate person.
Temperance is self-restraint and patience. Anyone who works in the legal field, especially with particular attorneys, quickly learns how important these qualities are. Patience is also important when dealing with clients and court personnel. Professional paralegals are aware of the benefit of not taking things personally and not always saying what you are thinking. It is always wise to pause before sending an email or speaking, particularly when you or the other party may have strong feeling about the matter.
Chastity for paralegals means honor and integrity. Paralegals who conduct themselves with honor and integrity are viewed as professionals whom others will not hesitate to recommend. Ultimately, all we have are our reputations.
Diligence for paralegals not only means persevering to complete a task, it also means performing work carefully. Diligence also requires budgeting your time and having a professional work ethic, both invaluable qualities for paralegals.
Charity is not just generosity; it also includes nobility of thoughts and actions. Professional paralegals exhibit Charity by assisting coworkers, mentoring other paralegals (as well as new attorneys), and giving back to the profession and community. This may include volunteering with a paralegal organization, teaching in a paralegal program or giving presentations, and assisting with pro bono matters.
Ellen Lockwood, ACP, RP, is the Chair of the Professional Ethics Committee of the Paralegal Division and a past president of the Division. She is a frequent speaker on paralegal ethics and intellectual property and the lead author of the Division’s Paralegal Ethics Handbook published by Thomson Reuters.
If you have any questions regarding any ethical issue, please contact the Professional Ethics Committee.
Originally published in the Texas Paralegal Journal © Copyright 2016 by the Paralegal Division, State Bar of Texas.