Professional Services

Organisational ethics through a leadership lens

Carolyn Devries

Ethical Leadership requires both Vision and Courage – qualities Carolyn De Vries has in spades.

Disillusioned early in her career by the business models and charging practices of law firms, she dreamt of a family law practice with a difference. A non-profit model, with affordable fees because its lawyers only needed to recover operating costs. And one where those lawyers, freed from the pressure of generating extra profit for shareholders had the flexibility to take the time to respond to client’s practical and emotional needs as well as their legal requirements.

Fuelled by that vision she then had the courage, in the face of significant resistance, to make it happen. In 2009 establishing New Way Lawyers, Australia’s first non-profit law firm, with the slogan ‘because some things should not be for profit’.

Carolyn generously agreed to feature in our Ethics Series last year where she shared her journey with others seeking to lead their organisations with an ethical lens. Here are some insights into this extraordinary lawyer…

Who or what influenced/inspired you to apply?

I learned about the QUTeX Ethics Program after being invited to speak at one of the sessions as industry expert. After receiving the invitation I naturally read through the program to learn more about the content and I quickly realised that I probably had more to learn than I had to teach and I decided to enrol in some of the sessions.

What was your personal growth story? 

My main learning was that unethical organisational processes and practices are often ingrained and you have to work to unravel the origin behind the processes and practices and then be committed and focused in rebuilding them. Organisational ethics and integrity are a leadership and management lens that you need constantly make sure you are looking through as much as the lenses of finance, safety, risk etc.

How did this study transform you / or the organisation that you work for?

It gave me a platform to talk to my leadership team about organisational ethics and to ask them tough questions.

What was the highlight of your study experience?

The practical components of the session which allowed skill development in the context of role playing and case studies.

What advice would you give to someone looking at trying to do what you have done?

I wish I had the skills and knowledge from this course when I was a young lawyer in practice 20 years ago. It would have given me the confidence and voice to speak out about some of the behaviour of my supervisors and leaders which was not okay.

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Explore how to promote ethical behaviour and foster integrity with QUT’s Ethical Decision Making Program.

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Melinda was a Litigator, Professor of Law, Assistant Dean and Managing Director of her own business before joining QUTeX as a Professor of Practice. She has custom-designed corporate education programs for a range of sectors including mining and resources, the legal and medical professions, government, banking and NGOs. She also has extensive international experience including projects in Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, The Czech Republic and Papua New Guinea. Melinda teaches Negotiation, Leadership and Business Law in the Graduate MBA and EMBA programs, is an Executive Coach and also leads the Ethical Leadership in Practice Series for QUTeX.

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