Ralph Nader talks ethics at U Law School

Former presidential candidate lectured to Law School students on ethics’ place in a corporate world.

Ralph Nader addresses the social responsibilities of attorneys Wednesday at Mondale Hall.

Marija Majerle

Ralph Nader addresses the social responsibilities of attorneys Wednesday at Mondale Hall.

Mackenzie Martin

Politician and political activist Ralph Nader spoke to law students at the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Law School on Wednesday about the relationship between personal ethics and corporate law careers. Nader, described as a âÄúlarger than life figure in American lifeâÄù by Law School Dean David Wippman , is most recognized as being a four-time presidential candidate. Nader ran as an independent candidate in 2004 and 2008 and as a Green Party candidate in 1996 and 2000 . Nader addressed an audience of nearly 200, mainly law students, on being ethical, responsible lawyers and emphasized the need for todayâÄôs law students to question and challenge the law instead of merely accepting it as is. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Institute for Law and Politics and the Law School , who together host guest speakers with the goal of representing different perspectives and viewpoints on law and policy, said Cynthia Huff, communications director for the Law School. Last spring, the two sponsored a lecture by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as part of the Law SchoolâÄôs Jurist-in-Residence Lecture series . Nader said law students, being legally knowledgeable, hold the future of the countryâÄôs legal system and presented them with the challenge to âÄúfix it up.âÄù âÄúWe have become accustomed to institutionalized criminality,âÄù Nader said. Nader cited George W. BushâÄôs âÄúregimeâÄù as having been in consistent violation of the Constitution throughout its two terms and said several Wall Street corporations also functioned in an âÄúabove the lawâÄù mindset. He questioned the audience aloud, asking âÄúWhere were the lawyers of the United States? Where were the law students? Where were the law professors?âÄù during these conflicts of law. Nader said students should not compromise their personal ethics for the prospect of a job offer or other forms of compensation. He advised students to clarify from the beginning where they stand on certain issues and to not be afraid of surveying law firms on their policies and stances on controversial issues before committing to a job. John Mathews, a third-year student at the Law School, said witnessing NaderâÄôs passion for his career left him feeling inspired for his future in practicing law. âÄúHe encouraged us to rethink why we went to law school and to use our degrees for social good instead of to make money,âÄù Mathews said. Despite Nader being known for his idealism, Aaron Street, chair of the Institute for Law and Politics and alumnus of the Law School, said he thought the speech was âÄúvery provocative,âÄù and he was pleased by the practicality of NaderâÄôs advice to students. While Nader said he understood that most students are concerned with paying off their loans upon graduation, he said that once graduates establish themselves in their careers, itâÄôs important to consider the shift âÄúfrom success to significance,âÄù and said law professionals can usually find ways to weave their personal interests into public policy work.