People view crime by professionals as particularly abhorrent, particularly heinous

People view crime by professionals as particularly abhorrent, particularly heinous. When an accountant steals from a client, a lawyer perverts justice and a doctor murders a patient, these crimes seem even more offensive. An examination of what it means to be a professional provides an insight into society reaction to professional criminality. It also provides an insight into the lesser (but related) mischief of inadequate professional behavior and the greater virtue of exemplary professional conduct. A central theme is that improving the emphasis on, and rewards for, exemplary professional conduct will reduce the extent of both professional crime and inadequate behavior.

Accordingly, society should not make a fetish out of crime in the professions and suggest a more positive co-ordinated approach to raising professional standards; an approach that recognizes that professional work falls into a normative continuum of which crime is only a small part. Whilst emphasizing the essential ‘backstop’ role for shaming and punishment, we suggest that praise and rewards for high professional standards are more important. Our approach also recognizes that there are many distinctions among professionals important for ethical issues and that incentive must be tailored to the particular profession and type of practice to encourage members of each to embrace a critical morality.

Legal profession is taken as an example to examine two problems that impede the attainment of higher standards by lawyers. In particular, it suggests that institutions must be redesigned so that they support and uphold the public values that justify the existence of the professions.

Recent writers on the subject of professionalism have, in near universal agreement, raised their voices in alarm. It is claimed that the professions have been overtaken by a ‘crisis of values’ I; an ethical malaise so deep that many professions may have lost their meaning altogether and become little more than self-interested economic units functioning in a world of crass commercialism? But this begs the question of how to define what a profession is, the answer to which will shed light on why society (rightfully) Views criminal behavior by professionals as especially abhorrent.

Technical definitions of professions and professionalism abound. Most authors point out that although the diverse nature and variety of professions excludes any single definition, there are at least three characteristics historically common to all. First, an individual must embark upon a course of extensive and intellectually demanding training in order to be admitted into a profession. Secondly, a profession is characterized by the provision of advice or service rather than things. Thirdly, a professional is able to maintain a high degree of autonomy over his or her work. The above characteristics stem from society acceptance of the profession right to exist as an entity in the form of a voluntary association, to engage in self-regulation and to exercise monopolistic or at least significant control over both entry to the profession and the provision of services.

Instead, is necessary to think of ways to breathe new life into old ideals and to encourage members of professions to embrace a critical morality. In particular, each profession must creatively consider how to avoid the temptations to misuse its power. It is no surprise that one of the key themes is the need to (re)design professional institutions to achieve this goal.

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