Katharine “Katie” Martin has spent a great deal of time grappling with the intersection of ethics and law throughout her career, and she has emerged as an experienced leader in her field. Martin initially connected with the Ethics Center after she joined her current firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in 1999, which was at that time engaged in a working relationship with the Ethics Center. After she joined the firm, Martin was asked to speak on an Ethics Center panel about red flag issues faced by boards of directors, which kickstarted her relationship with the Center. Martin is the most recent of a series of firm partners that have served on the Ethics Center Advisory Board since the Center’s founding, and she brings a valued perspective on ethical issues in the field of law and beyond.
Over the course of her work as a lawyer, Martin has come into contact with ethical dilemmas and conflicts on a regular basis. When it comes to corporate law in particular, she says the line between the legally right and the morally right can be a line corporations are willing to toe. “There’s no question that corporations, at a minimum, need to comply with the law, but the question is: are those companies going to go one step further and do the right thing?” In her experience, Martin says, the answer is usually yes. Corporations have, in recent years, become much more aware of their impact on the environment and communities around them, and are actively trying to minimize their negative impact. That being said, she says it’s all about who’s in charge. “I think it varies, and a lot of it has to do with how leaders approach decision making.”
Martin emphasized the importance of ethics within her career, saying, “everything that we do at my firm factors [ethics] in.” Martin’s career and work with the Ethics Center have helped her develop an appreciation for the study of ethics and morality, which has also played a large role in her personal life. As Martin says, “I am somebody who believes in the importance of a moral compass.” With both of her children attending SCU and her work on campus, she has been impressed by and grateful for the integration of ethics on campus, citing the Jesuit values and the connection to the Ethics Center as important hallmarks of the SCU experience. As a firm believer in the importance of ethics, she also champions the dissemination and popularization of ethics education. “There’s no question that if each of us, individually, embraced ethics - not only in our professional, but personal, lives - it would make a significant difference in the world.”
From Martin’s work in corporate law to her personal interest in ethics, Martin continually works towards a better understanding of ethics for the general public. While she says ethics may look like a complicated “black box” from the outside, the work of people like those at the Ethics Center helps uncover the many ways ethics can be applied in the real world. By making ethics specific and clearly relevant, the Ethics Center has given Martin a multitude of resources she can point to to help her clients and colleagues. As Martin herself says, “the Ethics Center is full of high-end, high-quality people being very thoughtful, and it only continues to get more and more relevant.”