The law might seem—on its face—as a dualism of "right" and "wrong," or "yes" and "no," or "win" and "lose." But it has an abundance of gray areas. The law is complicated—procedurally and substantively—and the "right" approach or solution is not always apparent from the statutes, regulations, case law, contracts, or client documents. Dilemmas posed by the gray areas can affect our well-being.
Scholars distinguish between morality (our personal set of beliefs that help us make decisions) from ethics (codes of behavior adopted and accepted by groups or communities).
Dr. Isaac Prilleltensky wrote a helpful article called Wellness as Fairnessin which he identifies six avenues of justice:
Distributive: "fair and equitable allocation of burdens and privileges, rights and responsibilities, and pains and gains in society"; balancing merit ("effort and capacity") with need (what everyone needs "to survive and to thrive")
Procedural: "fair, transparent, informative, respectful, and ... participatory decision-making processes"
Intrapersonal: justice in our relationship with ourselves; refraining from unduly demeaning ourselves; deeming ourselves worthy of love, care, and regard
Relational/interpersonal: treating one another with consideration and regard; fostering inclusion and belonging
Organizational: informational fairness, prioritizing transparency in decision-making and clear communication channels in institutions
Cultural/community: cultivating distributive, procedural, and interpersonal justice within groups
In cultivating our moral/ethical well-being dimension, let's explore what each of Prilleltensky's avenues of justice means to each of us. Let's also investigate our 24 character strengths and six virtues identified by the VIA Institute on Character, and learn how our character strengths can help drive moral and ethical decision-making in our professional and personal lives.
Moral & Ethical Dimension Resources:
For a deeper dive into cultivating our moral/ethical dimension (and guidance in crafting moral/ethical decision-making scripts and checklists), consider exploring Chapter 13 of The Flourishing Lawyer.
Write a sentence describing what each of Prilleltensky's six avenues of justice means to you.
If you've had the chance to craft a 10-word purpose statement as part of our work in cultivating our spiritual well-being dimension, are there any overlaps in the 10 words you chose in your purpose statement and the words you used to describe or define Prilleltensky's six avenues of justice?
If you've had the chance to take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths, take a look at your top 5 "signature strengths." Next, notice which of the six virtues identified by the VIA Institute (wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, transcendence) correspond to each of your signature strengths. Take a moment to reflect on how your signature strengths and corresponding virtues can help you make moral and ethical decisions in your professional and personal life.
**Remember, our "character" is not something that is fixed and permanent on a particular date. We can cultivate, deepen, and enrich our character over the course of our lives and careers.